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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Up to six patients at a state mental health facility in Iowa may not have placements elsewhere by the time the facility is slated to close, the head of the agency overseeing the process said Monday.
Charles Palmer, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, told lawmakers during a Senate Government Oversight Committee meeting that officials are working to change that for patients in a specialized unit for the elderly at the facility in Clarinda.
"We continue to try to find placements for those six," he said, and noted that four of them are sexual offenders.
It's unclear what would happen if those patients aren't placed.
Palmer's statements came during testimony that included remarks from the sister of a long-term patient at Clarinda. Janice Scalise told lawmakers that her 63-year-old sister has yet to be placed and DHS officials have been unclear about the process.
"I feel in many ways that I'm not being told the entire truth," she said.
Scalise said she had been informed of a move-out date for patients around June 15.
Richard Shults, DHS administrator for mental health and disability services, said officials are working with family members like Scalise to find placements.
Gov. Terry Branstad removed funding for the facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant in his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins in July, though some services at the facilities have already been halted. Branstad has said the facilities are outdated and patients can receive treatment elsewhere. Critics say some patients with special treatment needs have no other place to go.
Senate Democrats are trying to restore funding for the facilities in their budget proposal for health and human services. Some Republican lawmakers announced a proposal Friday backed by Branstad and DHS that would keep the facilities open through Dec. 15. DHS would then find private vendors to take over the facilities.
Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids and chairman of the committee, said he's skeptical of that deal. It's unclear what kind of support it would get from other Democrats.
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