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Paying for Iowa’s 988 mental-health crisis line | News

Paying for Iowa’s 988 mental-health crisis line | News

(KMAland) — A national mental health advocacy organization called Inseparable has released a report on the rollout of the 988 crisis line for people going through a mental health emergency.

Iowa scored well but there are still questions over how to pay for the service. The report called for Iowa and other states to expand 988 call-center capacity, increase the number and availability of mobile mental-health response units, create more crisis stabilization centers, and find ways to pay for it all.

Iowa came close to its goal of answering 90% of its calls in a timely manner, and is working on creating more than two-dozen mobile response teams.

Angela Kimball, chief advocacy officer for Inseparable, said the 988 mental health services need to be available to everyone who needs them, 24/7.

“Regardless of their ability to pay, just like we expect fire trucks to come if there’s a fire,” Kimball explained. “We don’t ask for insurance information first. Police come. They don’t ask whether or not there is an insurance card or payer first.”

Iowa is considering several ways to pay for the 988 service, including a surcharge, billing commercial insurance or by asking for money from the federal Medicaid program.

Kimball said the 988 system needs effective communication between mental health, emergency first responders and police, and added given the high stakes in mental health emergencies, a botched response is not an option.

“One in five fatal police shootings involve someone with mental illness,” Kimball pointed out. “Too often we see really a tragic outcome when people don’t get the right help.”

A 98-cent surcharge on Iowans’ phone service would generate more than 3 million dollars a year, according to Inseparable’s data and the report is looking at ways to keep the service accountable no matter how it is paid for.

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