Guest Columnist

Need DHS director concerned about Iowa's most vulnerable

Iowans were stunned June 17 when the head of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) abruptly resigned at the Governor’s request, with no explanation.

Rumor has it that the Governor Kim Reynolds has been working behind closed doors for nearly six months on new plans for DHS. I hope that means we will quickly see positive action, after years of budget, staff and program cuts.

Iowans are rightfully concerned about this latest shakeup, especially because DHS is overseeing another major change to our state’s troubled privatized Medicaid program. Yet, the department insists it’s taking extra measures to ensure a smooth transition for patients, health care providers and tax payers.

For example, we’re told that Medicaid patients may request to maintain their current Community-Based Case Manager. These folks help chronically ill and disabled Iowans manage complex health care needs. They advocate for patients, and make sure that care plans are accurate and carried out as needed.

Keep in mind, Iowa’s unstable, unaffordable and unaccountable privatized Medicaid mess is just one part of the enormous responsibilities at DHS. The department must also:

• Reverse course on policies that limit access to family planning and health care, especially in rural areas.

• Adequately fund mental health services for children and adults.

• Stop dangerous practices and procedures at state-operated facilities.

• Rebuild Iowa’s child protective safety net.

I encourage the Governor to launch a nationwide search for a DHS director who is committed to Iowa’s most vulnerable—an advocate who will fight for more resources and push for stronger protections; who will put quality care and proper oversight ahead of special interests. It’s a big job, but Iowans deserve nothing less.

I will continue keeping tabs on what’s happening at DHS and with Medicaid, and pushing for reforms that Put Iowans First. If you have concerns or experiences to share, please email me at rich.taylor@legis.iowa.gov.

- Sen. Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) represents Henry and Lee counties and portions of Washington and Jefferson counties.