Almost two years ago, the Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors withdrew an application to enter an 11-county mental health region to the south known as CICS. At the time, District 3 Supervisor Chris Watts said that county officials wanted to make the shift from the much larger County Social Services group (22 counties) to the smaller CICS because "Their leadership is awesome compared to what we got."
Monday afternoon, the board met and discussed the steps it's taking to once again apply for membership in that region.
"This is another step in the process but, essentially, nothing is decided," District 2 Supervisor Casey Callanan said. "There are multiple steps involved and this is part of it."
The way it would work is that once the county submits its application to CICS, which it intends to green light at its Tuesday morning board meeting, CICS would convene at its next meeting and decide whether or not they want to accept Cerro Gordo. But even if CICS went ahead with approval Cerro Gordo County wouldn't actually join the region until July 1, 2021 when the new fiscal year starts.
At the meeting, Watts said that the timing and process for the potential switch is "fair to everybody" so that region members can adjust their budgets.
"Nobody wants anybody to pull out and leave the region hanging," he said. "By doing this, it’ll be a good move to keep everybody happy."
CSS first came together in 2009 when former Mitchell County Supervisor Bob Lincoln helped put together a mental health region where Butler, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth, Wright and 13 other counties pooled funds and shared resources. Before that, each of Iowa’s 99 counties handled its own mental health services.
The intent in forming the region was to provide equal levels of mental health service for residents in the region regardless of where they lived. And until 2020 Lincoln served as executive director for the region.
But a number of counties within CSS have tried to leave the region in the past several years including not just Cerro Gordo but also Hancock, Kossuth, Webster, Winnebago and Worth. In Aug. 2018, Watts said that that's a sign. "The volume (of counties wishing to leave CSS) should speak for itself... Counties aren’t happy with the way things are going."
In addition to joining a smaller group that could be more responsive, Watts has said that the move would also be fiscally responsible as the county would see a one-time savings of between $175,000 and $180,000 from a lower levy rate.
"It is what I consider a move in a positive direction for CG County and that’s what we have to look at," Watts said.
Right now, Webster County is also applying for membership in the CICS region which includes the counties of: Boone, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Madison, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story and Warren. Like CSS, CICS provides services that range from crisis intervention to education and treatment.
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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.
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