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Senate Democrats Agree to Drop Juvenile Home Proposal

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DES MOINES, Iowa Senate Democrats have agreed to drop their proposal to re-establish a 20-bed state-run facility for delinquent girls to provide treatment and educational services for troubled teenagers previously served at the Iowa Juvenile Home before the Toledo center was closed in January.

The proposal was part of a $1.858 billion budget bill being negotiated that would fund human services, public health and other programs for the 2015 fiscal year that begins July 1.

Lawmakers are trying to finalize next year's general fund budget and adjourn the 2014 session this week. To facilitate that shutdown, Democrats who control the Senate agreed to recede from their demand for money to finance the proposed facility with enhanced accountability measures and state-of-the-art treatment programs for female youth adjudicated as delinquent by the courts.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, co-chair of the Legislature's Health & Human Services budget subcommittee and floor manager of House File 2463, said lawmakers were concerned that Gov. Terry Branstad would veto the provision and the $2.5 million would not be available to fund other needed services.

"There was no way to protect the appropriations and, with the target being so low, we couldn't sacrifice $2.5 million being vetoed and not going to other services," said Hatch, a state senator who is retiring to make a 2014 bid as the Democratic nominee seeking to defeat Branstad in November's general election.

"This is an issue that the governor is going to have to own. It's an issue that he's going to have to defend and it's an issue that without question will be one of the worst decisions of his administration," Hatch said. "He's putting at risk children who have been adjudicated by the courts and putting them into an unproven private-sector system that's not capable of providing the type of care that these kids need."

The health and human services spending piece represents a 6.1 percent increase over current funding, but much of the $107 million jump is to cover a federal Medicaid reimbursement change that represents an $87 million hit to the state general fund budget.

The House-passed version did not include any funds for re-establishing the Iowa Juvenile Home but appropriated $5.1 million for placing girls classified as children in need of assistance (CINA) with private providers and spending $780,000 to maintain the Toledo property. Senators earmarked $3.9 million to reopen the facility and operate 20 beds for delinquent girls, $1.1 million to provide after-care services and $2 million for CINA placements with private providers.

Another issue of concern in the HHS budget will was a proposal to delay by one year the Medicaid "claw-back" for counties under the regionalized approach to Mental Health and Disability Services provisions and not allowing implementation until MHDS core and core plus services are fully funded as outlined in approved regional management plans.

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