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home : news : news Thursday, March 26, 2015

6/22/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Governing board proposed for regional mental health program

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

Officials in Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, Jones, Muscatine and Scott counties continue to make progress toward establishing a regional mental health care system, although a number of questions remain regarding the structure and requirements of the organizations as the state transitions away from a county-based care system.

Clinton County director of mental health Becky Eskildsen reviewed the progress with the Clinton County Board of Supervisors June 17, reporting on the results of two meetings held by an eastern Iowa planning group made up of central point coordinators from all of the affected counties and coordinated by consultant Jeff Schott, director of the Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Iowa.

The planning committee is recommending a governing board with one vote for each county, although two non-voting members from a regional advisory committee also would serve on the board.

Each county board of supervisors will select its own representative to serve one-year terms on the board. No decision has been made regarding whether to stagger terms.

The governing committee would meet at least four times per year and would be responsible for adopting a budget, appointing an administrator, resolving disputes, developing rules and procedures, establishing a chain of command, approving payment of regional bills and approving a management plan and strategic plan.

Counties will continue to maintain local access points for services.

The regional advisory committee that reports to the governing board would include two representatives from each county and would include consumers, service providers and interested citizens.

Central point coordinators will serve as non-voting participants but will compose the management team for the committee.

The committee will advise the governing board, decide exceptions from policies, hear appeals and review the management of the region, including administration, finance, policies and procedures.

In addition to questions on hiring administrative staff and the length of board terms, county officials are seeking answers to questions regarding whether the boards must be balanced for gender and political affiliation.

Reporting on administration and finance, Eskildsen said counties will continue to manage their own property tax dollars and pay their own bills, but regional administrative costs will be split equally among the members.

A regional administrator will be appointed on an annual basis, with the position rotating among central point coordinators in the region. It will be up to each individual county to determine if extra compensation will be provided for overseeing the regional administration.

The chair of the governing board and the regional administrator will both be from the same county to facilitate communication.

Eskildsen said there has been discussion of hiring a full-time employee to oversee administration, but officials have shied away from that route in an effort to minimize costs.

Equalization funds approved by the legislature will be distributed to the region and forwarded to counties based on population. Two counties in the region are eligible for the funding - Jackson and Scott.

Officials are unclear whether the money will be distributed in July or December.

Unlike equalization funds, $13 million in risk pool dollars authorized by the legislature will be distributed directly to counties.

Counties must approve a 28E agreement by Oct. 1 and file the agreement with the state no later than Oct. 31 to establish governance of the mental health region.


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