June 5, 2023 4:40 pm

HIAWATHA — County supervisors on the board that governs regional mental wellness and disability solutions advocated Thursday for spending down substantially of its practically $9.two million surplus just before the finish of the price range year subsequent month by boosting help for initiatives inside its nine-county region to stay away from the state withholding future funds.

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

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

State lawmakers demand 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 commit 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 requires,” mentioned Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan, who represents the county on the board. “I hear from persons surely in my personal county there’s a lot of unmet want, so I feel we should really do what we can to get the dollars out the door.”

Dubuque County Supervisor Ann McDonough mentioned it created her heart ache that the board had so substantially readily available to commit when there are millions of dollars required on the ground that could be spent in partnership with providers.

In current months, supervisors pressed for a lot more funding for the Linn and Johnson County mental wellness 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 price 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 people such as youth or homeless shelters — that supervisors are seeking to far better fund with the readily available surplus.

McDonough mentioned the area is becoming also conservative in the awards it tends to make, and there’s not a adhere to-up method to reconsider growing allocations. She and Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers took situation 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 substantially in fund balance that is not becoming spent down, and now by legislative decree, we have to surrender it,” Rogers mentioned. “And we have surrendered it for final year. Now it really 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 each and every year that is in excess of the state-mandated fund balance, the supervisors urged far better economic arranging to guarantee the board is not faced with the very same situation in future years of getting a single month to figure out how to commit millions.

“There has to be a remedy to this that is sustainable. We can not run into this brick wall year just after year,” McDonough mentioned. “ … We have so substantially dollars left at the finish of the year when we know our communities, it is dry earth nevertheless, that there is not sufficient 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 often providers are not billing for solutions in a timely style, so it is not possible to accurately track how substantially is spent. In addition, regional employees mentioned often solutions might 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 wellness access centers, which she estimated could commit down at least $two million. Access hubs in Dubuque and Benton counties, which are not state-designated facilities and offer a smaller sized scope of solutions, could potentially get a enhance as properly.

Supervisors indicated help for reviewing prior proposals that have been not completely funded, especially growing allocations to the access centers and hubs.

If the area opted not to additional commit down its surplus, McDonough mentioned that would fuel lawmakers’ arguments in the future to minimize the quantity of funding for regions — hindering the board’s capability to help 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 essential fund balance from five to ten % — didn’t achieve traction amongst lawmakers due to the fact some of the 14 regions have also substantially of a surplus.

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

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

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