Mental health funding cuts slice deep

Gage Thompson

Column author Gage Thompson

By Gage Thompson

The Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disabilities Board recently made the tough decision to cut around $1 million from its 2020 budget. This comes after the mental health and disabilities federal budget for 2019 forced the closure of several smaller in-home care provider companies in the Muscatine area alone.

These closures not only leave the employees in need of employment, some of whom will be unable to find work in the same field, but the disabled clients are forced to change their service providers.

This can be detrimental to their quality of life, depending on the severity of their disability. It can take time to readjust to the changes once a comfortable disposition is attained with the new company, which can take time in itself. This will not do, and it’s just the beginning.

Among the heftiest impacts from the cuts are the effects to the sheltered workshops. These are programs that fund the employment of people with disabilities, giving them a steady income. With these funds removed and the programs dissolved it falls on the shoulders of the care provider companies to find new job opportunities for a large number of people.

These are the companies that survived the 2019 cuts to the federal budget. They’re the remaining options for those in need of in home care and vocational rehabilitation. They’re faced with an inundation of new clients. These companies are busy perfecting all the little details of how to best care for these new names and faces, most of which will need some sort of job placement when the new budget changes take effect.

There has been talk of The HNI Corporation creating positions to employ people displaced by the closure of the sheltered workshops. The potential benefit of local factories stepping in to help shoulder the heavy load shouldn’t be overlooked, but it won’t be enough on its own.

While I definitely don’t have the answer here, I can recognize at a glance that something must be done. The first part of finding a solution is noticing a problem. This is a major problem affecting the lives of those we care about, right here in our community. Something must be done.