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DSM USA Policy HQ - Mental Health

Mental Health Policy

June 15, 2021


The DSM USA Policy HQ podcast is a monthly conversation between experts on public policy topics impacting business and the relationship between government and the private sector. 

In the ninth installment of the DSM USA Policy HQ podcast, Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly and Advocacy Cooperative Partner Amy Campbell discussed mental health funding. This topic is a timely issue — May is mental health awareness month and the Iowa Legislature just wrapped up, which led to passage of a new funding model for mental health  state.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) one in five Iowans, or 600,000 of our neighbors, live with some form of mental illness. Campaigns like Make It Ok help to end the stigma surrounding mental health During the legislative session, legislators tackled the dilemma of finding the best way to fund mental health services in Iowa.

Senate File 619 Overview

Currently, mental health is funded through property taxes, transitioning over time to include a levy rate for the region that has been locked since legislation passed in 1995. This rate locked Polk County into a rate lower than any other part of the state. Over the last 25 years, the need for mental health services has increased, with the levy rate locked in at $14 million, while the population has grown by 100,000+ in the same time period. Connolly said that thanks to newly passed legislation, Senate File (SF) 619 , she hopes the added dollars will sustain mental health funding in the years to come.

Beginning Thursday, July 1, property taxes will be reduced and the state will kick in additional dollars. What that means for the area is an increase of $3 million, which doesn’t fix the budget, but is more than what there would be from property taxes alone. Campbell discussed how some areas will be required to spend dollars down before they can receive state funds. There is also a $3 million incentive fund that will assist with shortfalls, as well as built-in per capita annual increases.

Benefits to the County

Connolly spoke about the impact the bill will have on Polk County. With so many providers and services within Polk County, the burden of mental health care is an ongoing issue. People come from all over the state to take advantage of the services offered here, and different regions of the state are realizing the importance of the services to keep people out of hospitals and jails. The right services are expensive, as other regions will see as their mental health reserves begin dwindling.

Legislative Discussions

During the 2021 legislative session, Campbell said many discussions surrounded the role of the state versus local control, as well as the issue of property taxes as the basis for mental health funding. Campbell posed the question: What does property value have to do with the number of people needing care and the services you’re going to need? As the podcast laid out, the discussion will leave it up to the listener to decide the answer. 

Other topics discussed included disability services, the impact to businesses and more. 

Listen to the entire podcast above.

The DSM USA Policy Headquarters podcast focuses on public policy topics impacting business and the relationship between government and the private sector. Join us each month to hear from local Greater Des Moines (DSM) experts. To listen to more Partnership podcasts, click here.


The DSM USA Policy HQ podcast focuses on public policy topics impacting business and the relationship between government and the private sector.