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Winneshiek County is trying to cope with a ten percent drop in state funding of mental health programs

Posted: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 5:38 PM

If Winneshiek County is typical of other counties around the country (and it appears to be), then ten percent of the county's population—or 2,000 people--will have a mental health problem at some point during their lives.  At any one time the Winneshiek CPC is coordinating services for one percent of the county's population, or around 200 people.

While the mental health budget is set by the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, a 1996 state law capped the amount of property tax levy that could be used for MHDD programs.  That law made budgets a little more difficult at that time—but nothing like the state's recent 10 percent budget cut.

"We're trying to save what money we can without cutting services to people with disabilities," says Winneshiek CPC Administrator Jan Heikes.  Her agency is administering a $2,399,000 budget—with $1,720,000 of that amount coming as a pass-through from the State of Iowa of Medicaid funds.

With 72 percent of its funding coming from the State of Iowa, Winneshiek County's Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities budget dropped 9.6 percent this year.  "We're being as conservative as we can," says Heikes.  In fact, following the strange rules of governmental accounting, the Winneshiek County CPC actually dropped its property tax levy this year—because having a significantly lower cash reserve will mean additional state funding in two years.  That will help for the 2013-2014 budget.  But Heikes says in next year's budget, which starts July 1st of 2011, "we'll run out of money unless the Supervisors raise the levy again.  This bouncing of the levy doesn't usually make sense to the general public."

Heikes points out that the CPC program has saved over $1 million in costs during recent years, which saved Winneshiek County taxpayers from having to pay those costs through property taxes.  But unfortunately, says Heikes, "We've run out of magic bullets."

Winneshiek County supervisors are sympathetic to the problem—and say they know what the solution is.  In our final part of our series, we'll take a look at their suggestions.