The Head Of A Mental Health Region Serving Portions Of NW Iowa Says He Has Mixed Feelings Over A Bill That Would Transition Funding From Counties To The State

Thu 4-29-2021

(Spirit Lake)-- The head of a regional mental health region in northwest Iowa says he has some hesitation over a bill in the Legislature that would transition funding for mental health from counties to the state. Shane Walters is CEO of the Sioux Rivers Mental Health Region, which includes Dickinson county. He addressed the Board of Supervisors on the matter earlier this week...Shane Walters01 

"Since I've been here, since Senate File 69 passed, oh in '96 I believe, the state promised to deliver the growth in the system. In all of those years, I believe maybe they did that once. We also saw a change with regionalization where they promised to deliver some equalization dollars that would bring every region and county up to the same level, essentially backfilling and allowing us to do some good things with mental health. Well they delivered those dollars one year and then they eliminated them the next, so."

Walters says there is a bright spot in the legislation, however, should the state follow through with the funding levels included in the bill...Shane Walters02 

"If they do deliver on that promise to deliver funding it would raise some funding here in this region. We would start at in Fiscal Year 22 at about $37 per capita, and that would be a share, then, between the county and the state that first year. I believe the counties levy would go down to $20, $22 and some change, and then the state would pick up the difference at $15 or so. The next year, then, it would all be state and that would go to $38, the year after that $40 and the year after that $42, and then subsequent years you would see a potential increase of no more than one and-a-half percent."

Walters says mental health regions throughout the state are bracing for some new unfunded mandates that go into effect July 1st. He says it's forced Sioux Rivers to reduce or eliminate block grants to some service providers. Walters says they'll re-visit the cuts should the state provide additional funds to help meet the cost of the mandates.