No. 7 story of 2018: Woodbury County heads to new mental health services region

December 22, 2018

Editor’s note: The Journal today continues its countdown of the Top 10 Stories of 2018 in Siouxland, as chosen by Journal editors. The No. 1 story will be revealed on Dec. 29, and the Journal’s annual Newsmaker of the Year will be named on Dec. 30.

SIOUX CITY -- When the new budget year begins on July 1, Woodbury County will join a new eight-county group that connects low-income and disabled individuals with mental health services.

It took a series of machinations in 2017 and 2018, but the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors have handled the key steps to finally exit the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services agency on June 30. The next day, Woodbury will become a member of the Rolling Hills Community Services Region, joining current members Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford, Ida and Sac counties.

Woodbury, Sioux and Plymouth counties founded Sioux Rivers in 2014 when Iowa moved from a county-based to regional system for providing mental health services to disabled, low-income and other Iowans. That change was made in part so smaller-population counties could combine to offer services that might otherwise be too costly.

Woodbury officials sought to leave Sioux Rivers over disagreements on management style and other issues, but the state Department of Human Services said that can’t happen until July 2019.

Woodbury County supervisors said they’ve sought to ensure that there won’t be a service gap when the change is handled. They soon will figure out a county budget for money going to Rolling Hills for mental health costs for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Rolling Hills governance board members have come to Sioux City in recent week to meet with mental health service providers to learn more about how they function. They are aiming for as seamless a transition as possible, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor said.

In the meantime, the Sioux Rivers governance board members are adding Lyon County as of July 1, when Woodbury County exits the region. That addition to keep the region viable has been supported by Sioux and Plymouth counties.

Lyon County is currently a member of the North Iowa Care Connection region, which also includes Osceola, O’Brien, Dickinson, Clay and Palo Alto counties. At one point in 2018, Plymouth and Sioux county officials looked into joining that region.

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