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12 years after Parkersburg, Iowa’s mental health system still in flux

The Iowa Legislature this year moved the funding of mental health care from a county levy to state tax dollars. 

It was just the latest in a long line of legislation over the past 11 years aimed at fixing Iowa’s broken mental health system.

“It has been a perpetual change for us,” said Ryanne Wood, Lee County community and disability services coordinator. 

Iowa’s mental health system came under scrutiny in June 2009, when a schizophrenic 24-year-old named Mark Becker walked into a high school weight room and shot famed Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas, who later died at a hospital

During his interview with police, Becker spoke about angels, demons and a plot to hurt the children of Parkersburg. In court, his defense attorneys would say that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and should not be held responsible for his actions, though a jury disagreed and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2010.