Dickinson Co. Supervisors Discuss Children Mental Health Funding

Tue 5-7-2019

(Spirit Lake)-- Funding for children's mental health services was a topic of discussion at today's (Tues.) Dickinson County Board of Supervisors meeting.

It evolves from a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor that extends mental health services to children, but it stopped short of providing full funding, leaving that to the counties. It gives them an opportunity to raise their per capita rates for mental health services for the upcoming fiscal year, so long as they act on it within 30 days from which the Governor signed the bill, which was this past Thursday. All other counties in the mental health service region would need to increase their levy rates as well. Without the increase, it was reported the regional mental health network would fall short of the funding needed, leaving it an estimated $500,000 in the hole within three years from now.

Supervisor Chairman Bill Leopold said not raising the levy to meet the projected shortfall would be concerning to him, saying he is troubled over the possible impact any subsequent disruption in services would have on clients. But fellow supervisor Kim Wermersen argued the counties should leave the levies where they're at and allow the deficit to occur, to send a strong message to the Legislature...Mental Health Funding01 

"I think we're getting set up to harm them anyway because if we're in the red now and we're throwing more money at something that's continually getting into a bigger red, it's going to hurt them even more any way, Bill. That's where I'm concerned. And at what point do we say somebody needs to step up here. It can't all be thrown onto the county because we can't levy enough to make it work."

Supervisor Steve Clark said to him, it's the equivalent of an unfunded mandate...Mental Health Funding02 

"Every time we enable the legislature to go to the boiler room and say let's pass this bill and see if the counties will suck it up and pay for it. If they don't have to come up with the money to pay for it, then we do. I don't like unfunded mandates."

Wermersen then made a motion for the county to keep its mental health levy rate as it is currently. The motion passed four-to-one with Leopold voting no.

It was reported at today's (Tues.) meeting atleast one other county in the region, Palo Alto county, also opted to keep its levy the same.