Webster County was admitted to a new mental health and disability service region Wednesday, a move facilitated by new legislation allowing the county to divorce from County Social Services after years of irreconciled tension.
Webster County will join Central Iowa Community Services, currently located to the county’s east and south, at the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.
Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell announced the news with state Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, who spearheded legislation earlier this year allowing the change.
“It’s been a long road, and we’re extremely excited,” Campbell said, thanking Meyer. “She stuck with us through the whole process.”
The new region already has a few new mental health services that Webster County has not had access to through CSS, in addition to more established services like a mental health mobile crisis response unit to help lead the way for similar fledgling services started recently in the county.
“I am excited to know that we are going to be in a more functional region,” Meyer said, reciprocating thanks to Campbell for his work on the issue. “I’m looking forward to what the future brings with mental health services here in Fort Dodge.”
In addition to the ability to move or form their own mental health region, counties looking to leave CSS will also be allowed to take reserve funds with them, thanks to the new legislation. Under previous rules, Webster County would have lost $1.6 million in reserves used to tide the county over from year to year before taxes are paid.
The policy changes were tacked onto a budget bill in June after some difficulty getting similar changes through committee and subcommittee members, who had concerns over transportation time in non-contiguous counties.
CSS, the largest region in the state with 22 member counties, also presented similar challenges. Webster County officials have long complained of CSS neglect in delivering appropriate services and information to make decisions for the county. Black Hawk County is the largest funder of CSS. At $1.4 million annually, Webster County was the third-largest funder of CSS.
Many of Webster County’s frustrations with CSS have boiled over publicly on more than one occasion, with county supervisors often expressing exasperation over an inability to get county-specific statistics showing how many residents are being served and the cost per resident.
“It’s hard to pass legislation that just affects one part of the state,” Meyer said. “This legislation really was just affecting our region. No one liked to legislate for a small part, but when (legislators) saw the problem that helped push it forward.”
Assuming no other counties join CICS, Webster County’s addition will make the region just 12 counties large, including the following counties: Franklin, Hamilton, Hardin, Greene, Boone, Story, Marshall, Jasper, Poweshiek, Madison and Warren.
The new legislation also allows the state legislature to audit a region.
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox