BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A new agreement was approved Monday that will provide for additional voting members to the regional mental health board to help with new state laws providing for children’s mental health services.
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 690 into law in May creating a children’s mental health system in the state. The new law, among other things, expanded regional and state boards that will now include children’s behavioral health service oversight.
Southeast Iowa Link, is an eight-county regional board overseeing mental health services in southeast Iowa, headed up by Lee County’s Ryanne Wood.
Wood told supervisors the new agreement will expand the current SEIL board.
“What we have done in the construction (of the amendment) is just address the issues related to the new legislation,” Wood said.
“With the new legislation we will be inheriting, we will be adding a provider of children’s mental health services, a representative from the education system, and a parent of a child that uses children’s behavior services or a representative of that family.”
She said children crisis services were always a part of the regions’ services, but now the board officially takes over administration of those programs and as Wood stated, “will be the boots on the ground for children’s mental health services”.
It was a mandate that came without additional funding from the state.
“We were identifying with just the expanded services on the adult side, the financing of the regions would have to be addressed legislatively because there wasn’t enough money,” Wood said.
“Then we inherited the children’s behavioral mental health system. So we know absolutely with these timelines and mandates that we need additional resources to be able to fund sufficiently.”
Wood said several ideas are floating around including increasing the property tax levy, but she said that idea doesn’t have a lot of support. Other funding options include a lump sum appropriation, or a targeted sales tax contribution that would create funding that could be divided among all the regions of the state.
“There’s no doubt there was a need for a children’s behavioral health system because as it stands right now, there was nobody administrating this system and that’s why legislators chose to appoint the regions to do that,” she said.
“Essentially we’re the boots on the ground, and the only boots on the ground, locally throughout the entirety of the state.”
The regions will begin assuming responsibility of administration July 1, 2021. The region will also have the expanded complex needs adult services on their plate beginning that date.
Supervisor chairman Gary Folluo asked what benefit there was to the county in approving the new agreement. Wood said there wasn’t any benefit, but eventually the region would have to come in line with the new law.
“There’s lots of conversation that this is an unfunded mandate by not expanding our capacity to levy or contributing any additional revenues to assume this responsibility,” Wood said.
“But our community services affiliates and supervisors affiliates will be advocating that this needs to be attended to in some shape or fashion if we have to assume these additional responsibilities.”
She said if all eight member counties in the region didn’t approve the amended agreement by resolution it would fail and the old agreement would remain intact. Currently the levy cap in each county for mental health services, funds the regional board.
Larkin told the board tongue-in-cheek to hang on because the next legislature will have a bunch more changes to the new law and the regions will probably end up amending the agreement again.
“We’ve done this before,” he said.
The board eventually approved the new agreement unanimously.
In other action, the board:
• approved a waiver of taxes that came to Wood on property the county owns in the 300 block of Avenue G in Fort Madison. County property is exempt from county tax liability. The property was sold to the county from a subsidiary of Fort Madison Community Hospital, but the building sale wasn’t recorded until 2018 and FMCH had been paying the tax bill for eight years after the sale.
• approved a native wine permit for Appleberry Orchard in Donnellson.