Community Services eyes funding

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Most members of the public don't realize just how complex the funding "pie" for county mental health services can really be.

Dawn Mentzer, director of Buena Vista County Community Services, offered the county Board of Supervisors a view of funding challenges, and progress, in the management plan annual review last Tuesday.

In her report, Mentzer said that the county tries to provide care that keeps people in the community and prevents re-hospitalization.

To achieve that end, by April of next year, county service providers will act as a consortium to provide follow-up services after people are discharged as in-patients.

The consortium actually had its inception in May 2004 when Buena Vista County Community Services applied for and received a Community Change grant from the Iowa Governor's Developmental Disabilities Council and the University of Iowa's Center for Disabilities and Development. The grant, covering the period from June through December 2004, covered a consortium of service providers including Genesis Development, Spectra Health Care, Buena Vista County Mental Health Advocate, and Public Health and Community Services.

The consortium chose a name of the "Lighthouse Project" to help in "guiding an individual home". The grant pays for support serves to those coming out of inpatient settings.

For the past four fiscal years, the county has lost about $800,000 in state revenues since its mental health and developmental disabilities levy is set below the 70 percent of maximum allowable levy. State funding also depends on the mental health and developmental disabilities accrued fund balance being below 25 percent. The fund balance at the end of fiscal 2004 was 30 percent of total budget.

Buena Vista County Community Services has pursued federal funding for county-funded services whenever possible.

Mentzer told the supervisors Tuesday that one of the biggest increases in her department's budget was in services to those with mental disabilities. One goal is to work with agencies such as Genesis Development toward giving clients self-advocacy, or a voice in their own decision-making process.

"We are trying to get the people that we support to speak out for themselves," Mentzer said. "The people that we serve have been conditioned to tell us what we want to hear."

For example, two sessions were held this fall to help people with developmental disabilities study the voting process.

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