Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Decimating mental healthcare in Iowa

“Mental disorders contribute as much to a lifetime of disability as do cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and surpass all cancers and HIV.” — Neal L. Cohen, M.D., CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

TRULY AWFUL things are happening in the state where I live. Below is just one of them, affectingly described in a letter to The Des Moines Register

As retired nursing professional and friend Shari Hawk cautioned, "If you or someone in your family suffers from a chronic mental illness, loss of a case manager is terrifying."

Governor Terry Branstad by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

Caseworkers lost their jobs; thanks, Branstad

By Kurt Michael Friese
February 17, 2017

I have only been a county supervisor for a few weeks, but this is the first time I have come home simply seething with anger. The five of us on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors had to tell roughly five-sixths of the Mental Health and Disability caseworkers that they were going to lose their jobs, leaving 500-plus of the county's most vulnerable twisting in the wind, and there’s not a thing we can do to stop it.

With a zeal that was supposedly going to make government “more efficient,” Gov. Terry  Branstad turned Medicaid management over to private firms with the Orwellian appellation of “managed care organizations.”

These caseworkers did nothing wrong. Neither did their clients. But the former are out of their jobs and the latter are in limbo with a 800 number because some distant CEO needed to pad their stock value. Can’t blame the CEO though, they were just doing what they were hired for. It’s the ones who did the hiring. And that, my friends, is Terry Branstad and the Republicans in the state Legislature.

Here’s what I told the caseworkers that day: “There’s not one thing that’s fair about this. Not one thing. And I’m the new guy here so I do not know many of you, which has its own kind of sadness to it. But maybe because I am the new guy I can say this: It’s been mentioned here that this is all the fault of one person, Governor Branstad. But I submit to you that there are a lot of others who are at fault, and they all work on the hill in Des Moines. I suggest that if they are going to force you to lose your jobs, that you see to it that they lose theirs."

— Kurt Michael Friese, Johnson County Board of Supervisors


  1. Over the decades that the GOP has been privatizing formerly government work, we've seen failure after failure, many leading to the deaths of those they are paid to care for. The "ProLife" party strikes again. How can the profits of this outside company justify the inevitable death & destruction? Oh yes, profits over people. How big was their "donation" fund to the folks who votedvin favor of such a terrible choice? Because that is the real reason it passed.

  2. This lack of concern and care for those with mental illness started when Reagan was governor of California and it spread like a disease among Republicans. In California we watch as they emptied hospitals for the mentally ill and left them to fend for themselves in the streets. Reagan said families should care for them but families couldn't of course. The families lacked the skill and money so to keep some who were dangerous from hurting anyone in the family they were turned out. The majority of the people living on the streets today need care. A large percentage of those in our prisons need care and if they had had it they would not have ended up in prison. People who are drug addicted needed care before the addiction. But the privatization of prisons and mental health care makes a lot of money for a few and misery for many. Society crumbling as we speak.