MUSCATINE — While Muscatine County was not adopted into the Southeast Iowa Link (SEIL) mental health region during its meeting last week, Muscatine County supervisor Jeff Sorensen said talks are progressing and he is optimistic admission can be worked out.
Sorensen attended the SEIL governing board meeting Jan. 8, where the board was considering Muscatine County’s reapplication for membership in the coming fiscal year. The request for admission was tabled because some additional questions about finances were asked. The SEIL board created an ad hoc committee to create specific requests for Muscatine County. Sorensen said the committee will discuss the requests with Muscatine County staff.
“Overall, although we would have loved to see approval at that meeting, I think it was a positive meeting,” Sorensen said. “We had good response from the region members there. I think that process is continuing to move forward.”
SEIL currently provides support and coordinates care for mental health and disabilities services for Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Washington and Van Buren counties. During discussions, supervisors said the region is more in line with Muscatine County’s fiscal philosophy.
In November 2019, Muscatine County voted to leave the financially-strapped Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disabilities region, citing financial issues. The supervisors have claimed the region has been financially mismanaged and question whether the region will have enough money to finish the fiscal year. While withdrawal from the region is scheduled for the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the governing board has considered removing Muscatine County prior to that time. The county and the region are entering mediation.
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According to then-chair Nathan Mather, the county had provided about $3 million to the Eastern Iowa region and the region was cutting services.
After announcing the intent to withdraw from the Eastern Iowa region, Muscatine County had applied for application to SEIL. The SEIL board had denied the request at the recommendation of its finance committee, siting timing concerns.
As Muscatine County is heading into its budgeting season, with workshops being conducted this week, if Muscatine County is accepted, the entire $36 per person tax levy for mental health collected would go directly to SEIL. Otherwise, that money will be used for services and additional money would have to be levied for administration.
The concern has been raised that without membership in a region, the county would not be able to spend the money to provide mental health services. The supervisors have indicated the county would fight this if it was enforced.