The Southeast Iowa Link (SEIL) mental health region rejected Muscatine County’s application for membership on Wednesday, with governing board members citing concerns with timing. Muscatine County Community Services Director Felicia Toppert and Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Mather attended the SEIL meeting in Mount Pleasant to present Muscatine County’s application in person. Iowa counties are grouped into regions to provide state-mandated mental and other health care. SEIL consists of Louisa, Washington, Lee, Henry, Jefferson, Des Moines, Keokuk, and Van Buren Counties. Muscatine is required to join another mental health region after voting to withdraw from the Eastern Iowa region on October 28th.
SEIL denied Muscatine County’s application at the recommendation of its finance committee, which reviewed the bid last week with Department of Human Services representative Julie Jetter. Despite the recommendation, SEIL board members reacted positively to Muscatine County’s request, asking for more information and additional time to consider it. However, Jetter told SEIL it had to decide immediately whether to accept or reject the bid. Given no time to make a more informed decision, the SEIL board voted to deny the application. Several members invited Muscatine to reapply when they would have more time to consider the request.
Chairman Mather expressed disappointment at the decision but understands SEIL’s reasoning. SEIL’s budget discussions will begin in just a few weeks and there would be very little time to incorporate Muscatine County into its planning. Mather regrets the short timeframe and explained that Eastern Iowa (its current region) did not disclose the full extent of its dire financial circumstances to its own members until about six weeks ago. Since then, Eastern Iowa has scrambled to reduce spending. On September 23rd, it held an emergency session to cut $1.3 million out of this year’s budget. Last week, its management team proposed an additional $800,000 in reductions. Budget projections released just yesterday indicate Eastern Iowa will axe an additional $4-5 million in services next year.
Regardless of its membership in any particular region, Community Services Director Toppert says Muscatine County is committed to taking the best possible care of its citizens. Toppert will evaluate the county’s other options and report to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting next Monday.
The preceding is a press release from the Chairman of the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors, Nathan Mather.