February 19, 2014

Carroll County supervisors unanimously voted to sign off on the final agreement establishing Carroll County's place as a member of a new six-county district to provide mental-health services.

The Rolling Hills Community Services District will cover Carroll, Sac, Crawford, Calhoun, Buena Vista and Ida counties. The new district was created in response to new state guidelines on providing mental-health services.

The Carroll County board was the last to sign off on the agreement, approving it only after language was added to ensure that a county's surplus would remain in its account and could not be spent without mutual agreement from the respective county and the regional governing board. Language was also added to ensure that any acquirement or disposal of property be subject to the district governing board.

The supervisors were concerned that Carroll County's surplus could be taken and used to lift other less economically successful areas within the new region.

Supervisor Mark Beardmore, who led a contentious battle last year to exempt Carroll County from the new state guidelines, said that he would prefer the language require board approval as opposed to county approval to ensure that no expenditure could be approved through a county office by mistake.

Supervisor Neil Bock, who served as the county's representative on the Rolling Hills board, said Beardmore's concerns could be addressed through an "in-house resolution" requiring any action with the Rolling Hills board to have prior approval from a majority of the supervisors.

According to Bock, the inclusion of this language in the agreement represents a savings of $2.5 million for Carroll County taxpayers over the next two years.

The current reserve funds in the county's mental-health budget total roughly $2 million, said Carroll County Auditor Kourtney Irlbeck. Because supervisors will be able to spend those reserves, they will not levy a mental-health services tax next year.

As previously reported in the Daily Times Herald, Carroll County manages mental-health and intellectual disabilities services for more than 220 people with a variety of problems from anxiety to depression to schizophrenia to mental challenges requiring services at county providers.

According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, 143.2 people per 10,000 are served in Carroll County, compared with 189.5 per 10,000 statewide, and Carroll County spends $10,974 per person served, compared with $6,950 per person served statewide.

Bock said one of the most contributing factors of the success of getting the new language added was that the other district representatives knew Bock spoke for a unified board.

"It packed a lot of clout," he said.