MUSCATINE — It's back to the drawing board for the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors as it seeks to find a mental health region to take the county in after the Southeast Iowa Link rejected the county’s application for membership Wednesday.
During its regular meeting in Mt. Pleasant Wednesday, the SEIL board of directors cited concerns with timing and denied the application at the recommendation of its finance committee. The committee had been reviewing the bid with Department of Human Services representative Julie Jetter. During the meeting SEIL board members had requested more information and additional time to consider the application, but Jetter had said the board needed to decide immediately. SEIL CEO Ryanne Wood could not be reached for comment.
“No matter what happens we are committed to providing the best service for people,” Muscatine County Supervisor Chair Nathan Mather said. “We are going to do what we need to do to prevent folks from being turned out onto the street or being denied critical services.”
Mather, who attended the meeting, reported several SEIL board members had invited Muscatine to reapply when the board would have more time to consider the request. SEIL’s budget discussions will begin in a few weeks so there would be very little time to incorporate Muscatine County into its planning.
He also said the supervisors will discuss options during its meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 18. One option Mather cited is the possibility of the county getting a waiver from the state to provide its own mental health services. He said this would not be a permanent arrangement, but would get the county through the coming year until it could apply to SEIL again. While counties are required to be in a mental health region, Polk County has a waiver that allows it to be independent. Muscatine County does not have all the 27 required services to get the waiver at this point. Mather is especially concerned that Muscatine County does not have in-patient beds for people in mental health crisis.
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The county currently contracts for many required services with the Robert Young Center through the region.
The only other region Muscatine County could apply to is the Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region. CEO Meg Hingdgen reported today there has been no contact with Muscatine County. The application deadline to join another region for the coming year is Nov. 15. The region includes Benton, Bremer, Buchanan, Delaware, Dubuque, Iowa, Johnson, Jones and Linn counties.
Another option is the Department of Human Services can mediate an arrangement with the Eastern Iowa Region. On Oct. 28, Muscatine voted to withdraw from the Eastern Iowa region, citing financial problems in the region. On Sept. 23, during an emergency meeting, the region cut $1.3 million from its $12 million budget. Last week, its management team proposed an additional $800,000 in reductions. Budget projections released Wednesday indicate Eastern Iowa will have to remove an additional $4 million to $5 million in services for the next fiscal year. Mather has also commented that Eastern Iowa did not disclose the full extent of its financial circumstances to the board until about six weeks ago.
“Going back to Eastern Iowa is a mess and I don’t know a lot about the East Central region, but it has two large urban centers in it as well,” Mather said. “Potentially some of the same problems may be present there even if not as urgently or immediate as in the Eastern Iowa region.”