Winnebago County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 7 received an annual report from County Social Services, its provider of mental health and disability services provider.
Winnebago, Kossuth and Worth counties have given notice to CSS that they will leave the 22-county consortium at the end of its fiscal year June 30.
“We are in negotiations with Northwest Iowa Care Connections,” said Supervisor Bill Jensvold. “We have received a preliminary OK to join their region.”
Jensvold explained that there would be a transition phase and a few things to iron out regarding financial balances before making a final decision to join the new six-county region that would also include Palo Alto, Osceola, and Clay counties.
The supervisors’ decision to leave CSS comes from its desire to get better services and save money.
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“Winnebago County has put in $1.5 million into CSS since 2017,” said Jensvold, “and we are lucky to see $500,000 of that back in services and salaries.”
The county would use the same people to provide services as it does now, the only difference is where the money is going and who pays for it, Jensvold said.
Right now the money goes to CSS and it pays for the services it provides Winnebago County. In the future the county's money will go to Northwest Iowa Care Connections.
“Services will remain the same and we will be able to provide better services to our people and even have it cost less,” said Jensvold. “Roughly we have spent $370,000 a year in just the levy, the current money we pay every year on County Social Services. We use to take care of ourselves, that’s actually the best thing way to go about it, because anytime that you start giving away your money away from home, you’re going to get less and less of it back.”
CSS CEO Bob Lincoln lamented the difficulty of Winnebago's exit from CSS.
“The region has had to expend much time, energy and financial resources in holding Kossuth and Winnebago counties accountable to the 28E Agreement that they willingly entered into,” said Lincoln. “There needs to be an easier path for counties and regions whose business relationship is no longer healthy to part ways so all may continue the work of serving the most vulnerable people in our state.”
Jesusa Christians is the Community Editor of the Forest City/Britt Summit-Tribune.