Boards of Supervisors and county mental health coordinators gathered Wednesday in Spirit Lake to discuss the creation of a new delivery area for mental health services in the region. The creation of a Mental Health Region, comprised of Palo Alto, Emmet, Dickinson, Clay, O'Brien, Osceola and Lyon Counties, came together through their affiliations with the Seasons Center for Mental Health in Spencer.
With the focus of the meeting coming from the Iowa Legislature's Mental Health Redesign plan, or Senate File 2315, the purpose of forming a mental health service delivery region is to provide mental health care and disability services for the future. Counties are being asked to form partnerships under SF2315, but there are more questions unanswered about the process and intent of the legislation than there appear to be answers forthcoming.
Linda Hinton, government relations manager for the Iowa State Association of Counties, reviewed the history of SF2315 and offered some possible ideas the direction of the future of the Regional group.
While the general feeling of the supervisors and mental health coordinators was that getting something started was a good step, there are multiple concerns over what will happen to individual county services in the future.
A lack of rules and regulations on how the regional delivery of services shall take place remains the main stumbling block to any concrete action by the counties.
Under the redesign plan, three or more contiguous counties must joint together to form a regional system of care for their mental health clients. To be what the state calls a viable region, each system must have the capacity to provide what the state says are "core" mental health services to the region's client base. And, part of that core service is access to a staffed community mental health center or federally qualified health center. Each region must also have a psychiatric unit accessible within a 100-mile radius.
The location of Seasons Center in Clay County fulfills that core service requirement for the seven counties, who all provide financial support to the Seasons Center.
Another major stumbling block to the redesign also remains in funding, which is still being discussed by state lawmakers.
It was noted that the main problem after the lack of rules and regulations was that there is not enough money to provide the services spelled out in the legislation. The counties do not know if and to what extent the state of Iowa will assist in funding.
The outcome of Wednesday's meeting was for one representative from each county, including Supervisor Ron Graettinger of Palo Alto County, will meet to formulate the regionalization plan that will be presented to the group on Jan. 25 in a meeting in Everly.
Part of that plan will include the drafting of a letter of intent to be sent to the State spelling out the formation of the Region. That letter must be filed by April 1 of this year. Full implementation of the Mental Health Redesign will go into effect on July 1, 2014.