Democrats and Advocates Decry Veto - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Democrats and Advocates Decry Veto

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By Alex Schuman

aschuman@myabc5.com

@alexschuman

Gov. Branstad signed his new Iowa Health and Wellness plan into law Thursday, which he thinks will improve the lives of Iowans.

But others complain a line item veto he also signed that stops $13 million from going to counties for mental health puts us in danger.

"My first question was, 'Why?' said Loretta Sieman, a mental health advocate who found out Friday morning that Branstad vetoed the money.  "Why don't we want to care about the people?  Why aren't we worried about the suicides in this state?

Sieman's son Kevin had a mental illness, and died just this last fall.  She spends most of her time working to prevent other mothers from going through that same pain. 

"Mental illness is a frightening disease," she said. "But it's no different than cancer. It's no different from diabetes, it's an illness."

The Iowa legislature started a plan to improve treatment for patients by passing a bipartisan bill to revamp Iowa's mental health system. 

"What this 13 million dollars would have done was just funded the old system that we already know isn't working," said Tim Albrecht, Branstad's spokesman.

"I'm not saying the system does work perfectly.  I'm saying that's why I was excited about the redesign, but in the meantime, until that's complete, we still have people with illnesses," Sieman said.  "And to stop it and say well we'll work until we get it done isn't right."

Branstad's office says since the redesign passed the state already spent an added $115 million on the mental health system.

"We're moving forward very quickly with this new system, and making sure every Iowan who needs those services will have access to those important services," said Albrecht.

Sieman will be part of a gathering of national mental health advocates next Wednesday.

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