Mental health care workers and patients would be in line for assistance under a package of bills introduced by state lawmakers.

Iowa House Republicans have introduced four bills that would aim to add more mental health beds at state-run mental health facilities, establish more psychiatric residencies in the state, and create a loan repayment program for mental health care workers.

Iowa Rep. Ann Meyer, a Republican from Fort Dodge and chairwoman of the House committee through which the bills will run, spoke to reporters about the proposals Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol.

“It’s just such a crisis,” Meyer said. “It’s a crisis that needs to be addressed in a big way.”

 House Study Bill 532 would fund 12 new psychiatric residencies through the University of Iowa at the state’s mental health care facilities in Cherokee and Independence and the medical and classification center at Oakdale. “We know that we can fill those spots. We need to do something to get psychiatrists into the state of Iowa,” Meyer said. The program would cost $1.2 million in its first year and double the number of residencies to 24 and the cost to $2.4 million the following year.

 House Study Bill 537 would create a loan repayment program for mental health care workers. Participants would be required to commit to working in Iowa for five years.

 House Study Bill 531 would increase by 50 percent the number of beds at Independence and Cherokee. Meyer said this proposal faces the unique challenge of also requiring sufficient workers to staff any new beds. “We need to have places for our highest-crisis patients to be treated,” Meyer said.

 House Study Bill 530 would establish a higher state reimbursement rate to providers for patients with complex psychiatric needs.

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