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Mental health resources and minimum wage top Johnson County’s 2020 priorities

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) - Johnson County supervisors are asking state lawmakers for help with regulations on mental health facilities and the ability to set their own minimum wage in 2020.

"We feel we're the best situated to make decisions for our own constituents and we'd like to see the legislature reflect that," Board of Supervisors Chair Rod Sullivan said.

The county is financing the majority of a new "access center" in Iowa City, to receive patients in a mental health or substance abuse crisis. Sullivan says law enforcement don't have an adequate place to take these patients right now.

"They have two options: they have jail and they have the emergency room," Sullivan said. "Neither one is perfect for this situation."

The county already has a lot picked out for the center, which Sullivan says will cost around $10 million in total, at 300 Southgate Avenue in Iowa City.

To run the access center efficiently, the county says it needs state lawmakers to change the way 24/7 clinics bill for services and more.

"There are a number of rules the state could loosen or interpret differently," Sullivan said.

County Supervisors will also try again to regain local control of minimum wage ordinances. Johnson County's suggested minimum wage rose to $10.40 an hour in July 2019.

Counties haven't been able to set their own minimum wage since former Governor Terry Branstad signed House File 295 in 2017.

"It's embarrassingly low," Sullivan said of Iowa's statewide minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. "There's no way a human can live on that."

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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