- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Layoffs will begin in March at mental hospitals in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, despite efforts by some legislators to keep the centers open, a union official said Thursday.

Danny Homan, Iowa president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1LeZbIr ) that an administrator informed employees at the Mount Pleasant hospital that the first round of layoff notices would be distributed Monday and that those layoffs would take effect March 30. Homan said an administrator announced layoffs would begin April 20 in Clarinda.

Under Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed budgets, funding would be cut for the two facilities. Branstad says the hospitals are old and that people can seek mental health treatment from other providers, including two state mental health institutions in Cherokee and Independence.

But the news of impending layoffs surprised legislators from both parties who have argued it’s up to the Legislature, not the governor, to decide whether to close the centers.

Responding to such complaints, Branstad pledged last week to work with legislators.

Legislators questioned Branstad’s promise.

“When you’re laying people off, you’re not working with anybody. You’re just telling people to leave,” said Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, added, “If that’s accurate, that’s a serious problem.”

Segebart and Hogg spoke after joining in a unanimous subcommittee vote in favor of a bill that would require the state to keep accepting patients at the four mental health institutions through June.

Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for Branstad, said in a written statement that the state must notify employees about upcoming layoffs but that the governor intended to work with lawmakers.

“The governor’s plan to provide modern mental health treatment calls for those in need to be cared for in accredited facilities,” Centers said. “Today, Mount Pleasant lacks a psychiatrist and the number of patients in both facilities continues to decrease. The governor is continuing to work with the Legislature on the plan providing a more modern mental health care system rather than a system designed for the 1800s.”


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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