(Photo by Randy M. Cauthron) [Order this photo]
Prior to Clay County Board of Supervisors chair Ken Chalstrom signing an agreement to become part of a seven-county mental health care collective Wednesday afternoon, supervisor Linda Swanson updated the local board on the progress of the regionalization effort.
Swanson, who serves as Clay County's liaison to the task force overseeing the development of the regional redesign, said representatives from each county met last Friday to establish a basic operating framework from which to move forward.
"Three of the counties have already signed the agreement. I was surprised," Swanson said. "The rest of the representatives said they would at their next meeting."
She was selected to serve as the group's secretary going forward. The task force will meet once again on Friday, Feb. 22 and Swanson has been charged with locating someone who can help facilitate the process moving ahead.
The Clay County Supervisors unanimously supported the signing.
Six other northwest Iowa counties -- Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Emmet, O'Brien and Palo Alto -- join Clay in advancing a partnering relationship in the new state-mandated mental health care and disability services redesign.
SF 2315, the focus of the meeting, is a complete redesign of the way the state of Iowa will provide mental health care and disability services for the future. Counties are being asked to form partnerships under the new model.
Following an initial meeting involving several representatives from each county, Chalstrom said, "There are no rules or standards. This could all change down the road. Each county has different situations and different issues. We've been saying for three to four months there's plenty of time. The time has gone by and nothing has been done. No rules. No guidance from the state."
The redesign framework requires three or more contiguous counties to form a regional system of care for clients. In order to be a viable "region," each system must have the capacity to provide "core" services to the client base -- complete with 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.
Specifics around a key element of the project -- funding -- are still being formulated.
"We're not really solving any problems," Chalstrom suggested. "The main problem with our system is there is not enough money to provide services. That still remains. Will the state step up?"
"The big concern is that we're doing what we're doing in the best interest of the clients. That, and the appropriation of the proper funding to make sure their services can be provided," Clay County Central Point Coordinator Kim Wilson said.
The process includes the voluntary formation of a region by April 1, submission of exemption request by May 1 if a county so desires, with redesign ready for full implementation by June 30, 2014.
Counties who aren't part of a voluntary region by April 1 are expected to be placed in a region.