April 23, 2013

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors Monday unanimously voted to seek an exemption from the state's developing regional system for mental-health services.

The matter has been a top-tier issue for the supervisors for more than a year. At the same time, state lawmakers have been working for three years on a plan to move from a county-based system of mental-health services to a regional one.

Carroll County has maintained 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.

"We just kept on arriving at this exemption," said board chairman Mark Beardmore. "I still think we made the right call."

The supervisors Monday filed the exemption request with the Iowa Department of Human Services Mental Health and Disability Services Division.

"Carroll County is not better in a region than they are standing alone," said Supervisor Dan Nieland.

Auditor Joan Schettler said the county, as of the end of March, 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 manages mental-health and intellectual-disabilities services for more than 200 people, said Dawn Mentzer, central point of coordination administrator for Carroll County.

In an interview this morning, Mentzer said Carroll County has strong service providers, such as New Hope and the Family Resource Center.

"We do have a lot of providers," she said.

That system, plus the presence of the reserves, warranted the application for the exemption, said Mentzer, who drafted that document.

"It was a huge undertaking," Mentzer said.

The county will receive a ruling from the Department of Human Services within 45 days on an exemption.

State officials already have granted Polk County an exemption.

If Carroll County does not receive the requested exemption, it will be required to work with the state on joining a region. There is a nine-county region to the southwest, as well as a four-county region to the west and north with Crawford, Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun and one to the east and south with Greene, Guthrie, Audubon, Dallas and Warren.