Winnebago, Hancock, Worth, and Kossuth Counties have been embroiled in a dispute with County Social Services (CSS) Mental Health Region over spending practices, accurate accounting of county patients, and now the elimination of long time employee positions. The employee has since been rehired as a temporary employee with a similar position in Winnebago County Offices. The three other counties are looking to reconstitute a 28E Agreement between the counties to help pay for and utilize the services of the valued employee. The counties have also called for a state investigation into the spending and business practices of the CSS.
The state called for the development of a number of mental health regions in an attempt to defer costs of treatment for mental health patients, particularly in rural communities and counties. Officials in Hancock, Winnebago, and Worth have said that the exact opposite is taking place, that rural money is going to support metropolitan case costs. They also cite that their vote in a 22 county region means very little.
The regional mental health system problems are not limited to local counties. Three western Iowa counties are exploring new ways to coordinate mental health services after a series of disagreements. Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties have shared a state-mandated community mental health system called Sioux Rivers since 2014. Woodbury officials decided last year to leave Sioux Rivers. Board of Supervisors Chair Rocky De Witt says the county didn’t always agree with the votes taken by the regional board.
They’re on track to join a region with Sac and Ida counties next July. Plymouth and Sioux would need to bring one county in to replace Woodbury and keep Sioux Rivers running, but at a meeting last week, Plymouth officials drafted a letter asking to join a nearby region that includes Dickinson and Lyon counties. Plymouth Board of Supervisors Chair Don Kass says he feels confident in the change after the falling out in Sioux Rivers.
Under the current model, Woodbury County pays about 63% of the cost services, but uses about 73%. If Sioux Rivers is dissolved, the counties would have to sell the center and distribute the proceeds.