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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

    Muscatine County Board of Supervisors Responds to New Developments Concerning Mental Health Region Membership

    Margaret Hurlberthttps://discovermuscatine.com
    Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

    Muscatine Living

    At the November 25th Muscatine County Board of Supervisors (MCBS) meeting, Chair Nathan Mather shared new developments in the County’s attempts to leave the Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disabilities Services Region (EIR) and join the Southeast Iowa Link (SEIL). On November 18th, at a meeting of the EIR Governing Board, the EIR confirmed that Muscatine County would not need to make its upcoming payment to the Fiscal Agent (which distributes tax levies from each county across the region). Representatives from Cedar and Jackson Counties attempted to remove Muscatine County from the EIR on December 31st, 2019, six months before their scheduled exit date.

    According to Mather, both David Farmer (who oversees the Fiscal Agent) and Lori Elam (CEO of the EIR) supported excusing Muscatine from making their next Fiscal Agent payment. Mather elaborated they, “circulated a recommendation prior to that meeting that the transfer payments . . . requested, to the amount of $311,000 . . . not be collected, the reason being is they put out information showing Muscatine has contributed . . . about $881,000 more to the region than it’s received in regional services.”

    As this item came up for discussion, Cedar County’s representative changed the tone of the meeting significantly by making a motion to remove Muscatine County from the EIR early. This delayed the vote on waiving the transfer until a later date. Mather explained, “Cedar County’s representative voted to kick us out of the region effective December 31st, 2019. . . which under the 28E agreement, they have the ability to do. . . It was seconded by the Jackson County representative.”

    Though ultimately the EIR Governing Board voted against the motion, Mather felt concerned by the discord it showed. “It was calculated on emotion. . . [and] what it was based on was if you’re not going to pay your $311,000 get out,” he stated. However, he did feel somewhat reassured that representatives from Clinton and Scott County voted against it, out of consideration for those receiving mental health services.

    In light of the growing tension in the EIR, the MCBS has begun looking into what it will take to smoothly leave the region. At Mather’s request, Felica Toppert, Community Services Director and Disability Services Coordinator, has begun to develop an estimate of how quickly Muscatine County could leave the region without interrupting services. Additionally, Santos Saucedo and other members of the MCBS have expressed interest in continuing to work with SEIL to reapply and attempt to join for fiscal year 2020. Finally, the MCBS agreed they would like to meet with Julie Jetter, Community Systems Consultant at Iowa Department of Human Services, and discuss how, due to recent developments, they believe Muscatine County should not have to return to the EIR for the next fiscal year.

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