Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds declined an invitation Thursday to visit a mental health care facility in southeast Iowa, saying there was not time in her schedule for the unplanned stop.
The invitation came from State Senator Rich Taylor (D-Mount Pleasant). Taylor sent a letter to Reynolds on Wednesday, after he learned that she would be in the region.
In it, he wrote, "I strongly encourage you to include a visit to the Mental Health Institute at Mount Pleasant. Iowa families are hoping you will make the extra effort to understand why they are so opposed to the loss of this important mental health care facility."
The Mount Pleasant MHI, along with a facility in Clarinda, were slated to close in a matter of weeks, but a proposal before the legislature could allow them to remain open until mid-December.
Reynolds' swing through southeast Iowa included stops at businesses in Keosauqua, Mount Pleasant, and Burlington, a women's business lunch in Fort Madison, and the commencement ceremony for Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa.
She said there was not time to fit in a stop at the MHI.
"I'm not going to be able to do that," said Reynolds. "When we put a schedule together, we didn't put it together last week. Often they are put together two months ahead of time, and it's back-to-back stops and we have to be responsible getting from one area to the next."
During her stop in Fort Madison, Reynolds voiced support Governor Terry Branstad's plan to close the facilities.
"It's the right thing to do (and) it's the right policy that's been put forward," said Reynolds. "We really feel it's about the quality of care and it's about making sure we have a modern delivery system so we can take care of those individuals (who) need that type of care."
Reynolds believes there are a lot of misconceptions about the closures, especially when it comes to the number of beds that could be lost.
“Change is hard," said Reynolds. "They have been talking about this for a long, long time. Those institutions were built in the 1800’s and they were built to house thousands of Iowans and that is just not the reality of today.”
Reynolds is confident the redesign of Iowa's mental health care system to a more regional approach will help make up for the closing of the two facilities.