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Officials gearing up for mental health funding transition

Clinton Herald - 7/21/2021

Jul. 21—CLINTON — Mental Health region CEOs continue to work through the mental health structure transition.

Legislation signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last month moves mental health funding away from a property tax system to a 100% state-funded system. The legislation also gives the Iowa Department of Human Services the authority to approve, deny or revise the region annual service and budget plan. The Department of Human Services can make changes to the annual budget if it wants to make a change, Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region CEO Lori Elam said last month.

The Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region can expect to consider a contract with the DHS in December, Elam said Monday. If the contracts are not signed, it was indicated there will be no funding, Elam said. If they were to continue without a signed contract, the counties in the region not having a signed contract with DHS would be absorbed by another region, according to Elam.

"They would not be considered a region," Elam said. "So they're kind of drawing a line in the sand that they're going to be funding it. They're going to be calling the shots in terms of what are we paying for and what. But they want to work with us as far as what data and what outcomes will work for each region."

The four aspects DHS wants tied to the contract are improving employment-based outcomes, improving use of mobile crisis, jail diversion programs and decreasing emergency room visits, Elam said.

Cedar County board representative Dawn Smith questioned the justification for still having mental health regions with DHS taking the system over. Elam was told it is because they do not have enough staff to do it themselves.

All regions are currently collecting the same data on mobile crisis response teams, specifically who they are serving, when they are serving, the amount of time and the outcome, Elam said. The information is being put into the Community Services Network system, Elam said.

"We're doing a better job of making things similar from region to region," Elam said. "One of the big things that we are going to have to do sooner rather than later is look at how we code things in our chart of accounts. DHS is very concerned that our admin costs and what we're coding as admin is not consistent across the state. So we're going to be reviewing all of that."

Smith stressed the importance of having everything coded properly in the Community Services Network system.

"If the coding is not done properly and the people are not putting the information into CSN and the notes right into CSN, they could think that everything's OK and it's not," Smith said. "So it's very important that everybody do their coding accurately and make sure that everything gets in. Because if it doesn't, it will backfire on us."

The region will have a total of over $11 million in funding for the current fiscal year, which began July 1 and ends June 30. The region will generate $6.3 million from the levy. They will receive $4.7 million from the state, Elam said. The region will need to be at or below 40% fund balance on June 30, Elam noted.


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