Supervisor Mark Beardmore
Supervisor Mark Beardmore
April 25, 2013

Carroll County Supervisor Mark Beardmore says he sees an analogy between Gov. Terry Branstad's plan to opt Iowa out of federal Medicaid expansion and Carroll County's pursuit of an exemption from the state's developing regional system for mental-health services.

"To me, I saw vast similarities," said Beardmore, the chairman of the county board.

So he took the case straight to the governor.

Branstad called Beardmore at home Sunday, and the two Republicans talked for nearly 30 minutes about the state's mental-health redesign, a plan to move from a county-by-county system to regional care.

"Number 1, it was just a good, non-confrontational, non-challenging conversation," Beardmore said.

As of the end of March, Carroll County had $2.9 million in reserves for mental-health services. The county expects to spend $1.3 million on mental-health services for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Carroll County has maintained the robust reserves for such services, and supervisors don't want to see that money, built over years, used to lift any economically troubled counties in a region Carroll could be forced to join. The Board of Supervisors Monday voted to file a request for an exemption from mental-health regionalization with the Department of Human Services.

For Branstad's part, he says he doesn't want to rely on the flow of federal funds to expand Medicaid in Iowa. He says the money likely won't be there long-term, leaving Iowa with more people in the system and no way to pay for it - other than hitting up Iowans for more taxes.

Beardmore said Branstad acknowledged the parallels with the county's exemption application and the governor's own effort to obtain a Medicaid-expansion waiver from federal health officials.

According to Beardmore, Branstad told him the Iowa Department of Human Services has the final say on the county's application, and that he wouldn't seek to influence it.

Polk County already has an exemption.

Beardmore said he left the phone conversation with Branstad encouraged about Carroll County's prospects for an exemption.

Carroll County manages mental-health and intellectual disabilities services for more than 200 people, said Dawn Mentzer, central point of coordination administrator for Carroll County.

If the state rejects the county's application, there are a number of regions it could join for mental-health services. Beardmore, while confident for success with the application, is rolling over contingency plans with the other four supervisors.

"I've got a personal motto that the time to cross the bridge is way before you get to the bridge," Beardmore said.