- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa (AP) - A 15-bed psychiatric unit for children at a state mental health institute in Independence will close, Iowa officials announced Friday, and 10 employees at the facility have received layoff notices.

No patients currently are being treated at the Psychiatric Medical Institution for Children unit at the Independence Mental Health Institute, and there haven’t been any since July, the Iowa Department of Human Services said.

Spokeswoman Amy Lorentzen McCoy said there has been a decline of patients at the unit over the past five years. The department didn’t request money for the unit, which is funded through state dollars and federal Medicaid payments, for the upcoming budget year.

“Now is the appropriate time to dedicate resources to meeting clinical needs of other programs,” she said in an email to the AP.

Children who have received services at the unit need treatment beyond group homes or outpatient services. Iowa has more than 475 beds for such treatment through other providers, McCoy said, and 385 of those are available through Medicaid, which provides health care to poor and disabled residents.

Ten state employees were given “reduction in force” notices Thursday, according to McCoy, who confirmed that meant layoffs but added that some may transfer to other positions at the mental health facility in Independence or other state-operated facilities.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for our staff that provided quality care to (unit) patients, and we thank them for their dedicated service,” she said in the email.

The facility in Independence is one of two remaining state mental health institutes in Iowa. Last year, state institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant closed after Gov. Terry Branstad declined to recommend more funding for them.

Democrats and Republicans in the split Legislature reached a compromise in the 2015 session to keep the facilities open, but Branstad vetoed the deal. He said at the time the state could continue providing mental health services with the two remaining facilities and provide better care.

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