Health Care Takes Center Stage in Governor’s Address

During this week’s Condition of the State address, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds committed to support – and provide funding to – several key health care issues, including mental health, Iowa’s health care workforce and rural development. Below is a closer look at what the governor shared regarding those areas:

Mental health: Asking legislators to “work with me to ensure that we have sustainable funding that will keep our mental health system strong,” the governor committed $11 million in added Medicaid funding over two years to build on last year’s unanimously-supported comprehensive mental health legislation. The governor also plans to introduce legislation to create a children’s mental health system that relies on recommendations put forward by the Children’s System State Board.

To address Iowa’s statewide shortage of mental health professionals, Gov. Reynolds proposed providing $400,000 for four additional psychiatric residencies at the University of Iowa in next year’s budget. The residencies would be tailored to doctors who want to treat mental illness in rural Iowa. Only 30 of Iowa’s 99 counties have at least one psychiatrist. The governor’s’ budget also proposes spending an additional $150,000 per year for the University of Iowa to train nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat mental illnesses.

Health care workforce: In addition to bolstering the mental health workforce, Gov. Reynolds proposed budgeting $20 million toward Future Ready Iowa, a statewide workforce development program and one of the governor’s signature initiatives. High-demand careers, including those in health care, are an area of emphasis in the initiative.

Rural development: Specifically noting that hospitals need high-speed Internet to meet the health care needs of rural Iowans, Gov. Reynolds said she will be seeking $20 million earmarked for broadband development. Such an investment would clearly support expansion of telehealth, a technology critical to rural hospitals and communities. She also proposed doubling the amount of workforce housing tax credits that are set aside for rural communities, putting the total at $10 million, and establishing a Center for Rural Revitalization within the Iowa Economic Development Authority.