FOREST CITY | The Winnebago County Supervisors are withholding payment of the county's mental health fund balance to County Social Services.
CSS, the 22-county mental health region that includes Winnebago and Hancock counties, has requested Winnebago County pay them the amount in that fund balance, which amounts to around $500,000.
Supervisor Bill Jensvold said he wants to withhold the payment because although some counties are asked to give the money in their fund balances to CSS each year, others are allowed to spend down their balance.
"If he (Bob Lincoln, CEO of CSS) is going to make that deal for one, he should be making that deal for everyone," said Jensvold during the Oct. 30 county board of supervisors meeting.
Jensvold represents Winnebago County on the CSS Governing Board.
Winnebago County Attorney Kelsey Beenken told the supervisors she doesn't believe the board can withhold mental health services from the county for non-payment of its fund balance.
The county did agree to give its mental health levy revenue to CSS as requested.
Jensvold and the other supervisors are still hoping the county will be able to leave CSS and either join Northwest Iowa Care Connection or form a new mental health region with other counties unhappy with CSS.
In August, Hancock, Winnebago, Worth and Kossuth counties were accepted into NICC, a six-county mental health region to the west, contingent on review of their submitted information and member approval.
Those counties then submitted letters notifying CSS of their intent to withdraw from that region.
However, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors voted on Oct. 22 to rescind its letter to withdraw.
The board’s vote came after receiving a letter from Bill Leupold, chairman of the NICC Governing Board, stated Kossuth County's "lack of resolution to the outstanding and contested balances" owed to CSS made it impossible to admit Kossuth County to NICC for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Because state law requires members of a mental health region to be touching and Hancock, Winnebago and Worth counties aren’t touching NICC without Kossuth County, Leupold said the governing board couldn’t process the requests from those three counties either.
Jensvold said Winnebago, Kossuth and Worth counties have not withdrawn their letters of intent to leave CSS, and the Hancock County Supervisors have until Nov. 15 to change their minds and resubmit their letter of intent.
He said Kossuth County and CSS are now in mediation to resolve their financial dispute.
Kossuth County Supervisor Roger Tjarks, who represents that county on the CSS Governing Board, told the Summit-Tribune mediation began on Oct. 24.
He said he's not able to talk about the results until "we have an agreement in black and white."
Tjarks said he doesn't know when that will be.
However, "I think we will be able to do that (resolve the dispute in time to join CSS on July 1)," Tjarks said.
"Do I think the process is gong to be smooth? No. But we will find out," he said.
Cerro Gordo County recently withdrew its application to CICS, an 11-county mental health region to the south, to stay put in CSS.
Prior to Hancock, Winnebago, Worth, Kossuth and Cerro Gordo counties application to other mental health regions, they discussed leaving CSS and establishing their own mental health region in North Iowa.
The idea was to better serve the residents, but they were unable to satisfy the state’s requirements to do so.
Jensvold said those counties are now waiting on the results of the mediation between Kossuth County and CSS so they can weigh their options for the 2019-20 fiscal year.