MUSCATINE, Iowa— At their March 30 meeting, the Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services Region voted to reject Muscatine County’s request to rescind an early letter stating their intent to leave the Region.
Previously, representatives from Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, and Scott County spoke with their county attorneys about whether they could vote to allow Muscatine to rescind their letter to leave the region. All the county attorneys concurred that board action to accept the letter constituted a binding contract, but that a vote to rescind it would allow Muscatine County to stay in the Region.
As the Region’s board discussed weather to allow Muscatine County to rescind, several spoke out against taking that action. Board Chair Ken Beck of Scott County favored this position, saying he thought the Department of Human Services in Iowa, “needs to make the hard decision and put Muscatine where they really wanted to be.” Under Iowa law, the Department may assign any county without a region to any region contiguous to it.
Dawn Smith of Cedar County and Jack Willey of Jackson County agreed with Beck. Though Willey acknowledged tensions between Muscatine County and the Region have eased in the last several months, he still felt Muscatine County did not agree with many of the Region’s actions. “It’s apparent that they’re not happy, especially with Scott County,” he elaborated.
However Jim Irwin of Clinton County felt strongly that Muscatine should remain in the region, as they tended to press issues other counties did not. “Without Muscatine County in the region, I don’t know where Clinton County will be in two years,” he said. In particular, he felt Muscatine County drew attention to the Region’s request for proposal process and adherence to guidelines set out for all regions, areas that have caused contention within the Region for some time.
Before the Region’s board voted, Jeff Sorensen, Muscatine County’s representative, reiterated the County’s desire to continue working with the Region to resolve any remain difficulties, as he felt Muscatine would continue to act as a net financial contributor in the future. “If we could work out the issues that the Region has, we’ll be a lot better off,” he stressed.
In the end, the Region’s board voted three to two not to allow Muscatine County to rescind their letter, with Cedar, Jackson, and Scott Counties opposing it and Clinton and Muscatine Counties supporting it.
In the wake of this rejection, the Department of Human Services in Iowa had two options, either to assign Muscatine County to a region (most likely sending them to SEIL or returning them to the Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disability Region) or request Muscatine County apply to rejoin its current or another region on July 1. Though the Department had not announced what action it would take before March 30 , representative Julie Jetter stated at the meeting, “we’ll be moving very swiftly to get this taken care of.”
The Department of Human Services moved swiftly indeed. On March 31, they reassigned Muscatine County to the Eastern. Eastern Region CEO Lori Elam cited preventing service disruptions during the COVID-19 outbreak as a driving factor for the decision.