• Mon. Jun 5th, 2023

Millions for mental wellness care at danger if surplus is not spent


May 26, 2023

HIAWATHA — County supervisors on the board that governs regional mental wellness and disability solutions advocated Thursday for spending down considerably of its almost $9.two million surplus prior to the finish of the price range year subsequent month by boosting assistance for initiatives inside its nine-county location to stay away from the state withholding future funds.

As the finish of fiscal 2023 looms on June 30, the East Central Mental Well being Area governing board directed regional employees to draft a program for how to commit aspect of the surplus — at least about $four.two million that goes beyond the state-mandated fund balance — to far better spend mental wellness care providers, who are seeing higher levels of demand for underfunded solutions.

The Iowa Division of Well being and Human Solutions allocates state home tax dollars to regions, but if regions carry as well considerably of a surplus the agency withholds additional dollars. That primarily signifies providers inside the area drop out on funding that would otherwise go toward enhancing solutions and addressing unmet nearby requirements.

State lawmakers demand the regions to hold fund balances of 20 %, but that will drop to five % subsequent fiscal year.

Regional Chief Executive Officer Mae Hingtgen asked the board for path at the board’s meeting Thursday at the Kirkwood Regional Center on how to commit the fund balance, or no matter whether to let it stay as is. The area covers solutions in nine counties: Benton, Bremer, Buchanan, Delaware, Dubuque, Iowa, Johnson, Jones and Linn.

“These dollars are appropriated for the taxpayers of the area to have spent on persons in the area who have these requirements,” mentioned Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan, who represents the county on the board. “I hear from persons definitely in my personal county there’s a lot of unmet have to have, so I feel we should really do what we can to get the funds out the door.”

Dubuque County Supervisor Ann McDonough mentioned it created her heart ache that the board had so considerably obtainable to commit when there are millions of dollars necessary on the ground that could be spent in partnership with providers.

In current months, supervisors pressed for extra funding for the Linn and Johnson County mental wellness access centers, anticipating the area would finish up holding a multimillion-dollar surplus. The board passed a fiscal 2024 price range in March that allocated $two.9 million to the facilities — up from the initially proposed $two.five million.

County officials have mentioned regional funding and low Medicaid reimbursement prices do not cover the expense of solutions, and for Linn County the resource gap is a barrier to the access center’s expansion to be open about the clock.

It is these types of solutions — and other individuals such as youth or homeless shelters — that supervisors are hunting to far better fund with the obtainable surplus.

McDonough mentioned the area is becoming as well conservative in the awards it tends to make, and there’s not a adhere to-up approach to reconsider growing allocations. She and Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers took concern with CEO Hingtgen’s lack of suggestions for spending down the surplus, which McDonough mentioned felt like a scramble to now allocate with only about 5 weeks to go.

Rogers mentioned this area could make a decision to be a model and opt to supplement the gap providers face from low Medicaid reimbursement prices.

“We have so considerably in fund balance that is not becoming spent down, and now by legislative decree, we have to surrender it,” Rogers mentioned. “And we have surrendered it for final year. Now it really is May well 25, and we’re going to come back at the finish of June, asking for proposals (from providers).”

Saddled with a surplus each year that is in excess of the state-mandated fund balance, the supervisors urged far better monetary organizing to assure the board is not faced with the identical concern in future years of possessing a single month to figure out how to commit millions.

“There has to be a remedy to this that is sustainable. We can’t run into this brick wall year right after year,” McDonough mentioned. “ … We have so considerably funds left at the finish of the year when we know our communities, it is dry earth nevertheless, that there is not adequate solutions.”

McDonough recommended forming a subcommittee of the board focused on finances.

Deborah Seymour-Guard, finance coordinator for the area, mentioned there are a quantity of challenges involved with price range estimates. She mentioned often providers are not billing for solutions in a timely style, so it is not possible to accurately track how considerably is spent. On top of that, regional employees mentioned often solutions might not come to fruition till a later date than anticipated, throwing off providers’ estimates.

She recommended possibly boosting funding allocated to the Linn and Johnson County mental wellness access centers, which she estimated could commit down at least $two million. Access hubs in Dubuque and Benton counties, which are not state-designated facilities and present a smaller sized scope of solutions, could potentially get a increase as effectively.

Supervisors indicated assistance for reviewing preceding proposals that had been not completely funded, especially growing allocations to the access centers and hubs.

If the area opted not to additional commit down its surplus, McDonough mentioned that would fuel lawmakers’ arguments in the future to cut down the quantity of funding for regions — hindering the board’s potential to assistance tips such as jail diversion and access centers.

Lobbyist Gary Grant mentioned a single of the region’s legislative priorities for the 2023 legislative session — to increase the essential fund balance from five to ten % — didn’t acquire traction amongst lawmakers simply because some of the 14 regions have as well considerably of a surplus.

“Now, I do feel the legislature understands the utility of becoming ten % rather than five %,” Grant mentioned. “However, as lengthy as there are regions out there that way exceed that, I feel it is going to fall on deaf ears.”

Comments: (319) 398-8494 marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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