• Sat. Jun 10th, 2023

Millions for mental well being care at danger if surplus is not spent


May 26, 2023

HIAWATHA — County supervisors on the board that governs regional mental well being and disability solutions advocated Thursday for spending down significantly 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 clear of the state withholding future funds.

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

The Iowa Division of Overall health and Human Solutions allocates state home tax dollars to regions, but if regions carry also significantly of a surplus the agency withholds additional dollars. That basically suggests providers inside the area shed out on funding that would otherwise go toward enhancing solutions and addressing unmet neighborhood requirements.

State lawmakers call for 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 devote the fund balance, or no matter if 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 surely in my personal county there’s lots of unmet have to have, so I assume we must do what we can to get the income out the door.”

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

In current months, supervisors pressed for much more funding for the Linn and Johnson County mental well being 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 folks such as youth or homeless shelters — that supervisors are searching to far better fund with the out there surplus.

McDonough mentioned the area is getting also conservative in the awards it tends to make, and there’s not a adhere to-up procedure to reconsider rising allocations. She and Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers took challenge 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 choose to be a model and opt to supplement the gap providers face from low Medicaid reimbursement prices.

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

Saddled with a surplus every single year that is in excess of the state-mandated fund balance, the supervisors urged far better economic preparing to guarantee the board is not faced with the similar challenge in future years of obtaining a single month to figure out how to devote millions.

“There has to be a remedy to this that is sustainable. We can’t run into this brick wall year following year,” McDonough mentioned. “ … We have so significantly income left at the finish of the year when we know our communities, it is dry earth nonetheless, 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 in some cases providers are not billing for solutions in a timely style, so it is not possible to accurately track how significantly is spent. Furthermore, regional employees mentioned in some cases solutions may possibly 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 well being access centers, which she estimated could devote down at least $two million. Access hubs in Dubuque and Benton counties, which are not state-designated facilities and deliver a smaller sized scope of solutions, could potentially get a enhance as properly.

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

If the area opted not to additional devote down its surplus, McDonough mentioned that would fuel lawmakers’ arguments in the future to lessen the quantity of funding for regions — hindering the board’s capability to assistance suggestions 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 enhance the expected fund balance from five to ten % — didn’t acquire traction amongst lawmakers since some of the 14 regions have also significantly of a surplus.

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

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

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