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DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate voted 46-2 Tuesday to create a first-ever statewide children’s mental health system, sending Gov. Kim Reynolds one of her top priorities of the 2019 session.

“This bill will finally help organize what was once a piecemeal system for our children’s mental health and youth services,” said Sen. Jeff Edler, R-State Center, who served as floor manager for the bill.

The proposal came from Reynolds was based on recommendations made by experts. It will create a system by 2020 to serve children up to age 18 with serious emotional disturbances, lays out services to be provided and establishes an oversight board.

“We’ve talked about a children’s mental health system for a long time, and it’s time to finally put the structure in place,” Reynolds said. “... People don’t know where to start, so little things can make a big difference in getting kids the help they need.”

The governor’s proposal called for an initial $3 million state investment. Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, one of two senators who voted no, expressed disappointment the legislation lacked a funding commitment.

“It’s just a facade. It’s based on money that’s not provided,” Hogg said, noting about 80 percent of the cost will be covered by the county-based regions.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated the plan would cost nearly $3.7 million in fiscal 2020 and more than $6.3 million the following year. Medicaid would cover $423,110 in year one and $1.3 million in year two, with Iowa’s 14 mental health and disability services regions — partly supported by property taxes — covering the remainder.

Edler said the bill included language contingent on available funding to reflect fluctuations in federal Medicaid funding and provisions of the Affordable Care Act that may affect financial considerations.

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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