Apr 15, 2022 - News

Polk County to open a new mental health department

Illustration of the Polk County Administration Building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Polk County supervisors approved a new Behavioral Health and Disability Services Department during a special meeting Thursday.

Why it matters: It shifts the oversight of local mental health services that thousands of residents depend upon from a nonprofit to the county.

Catch up fast: The nonprofit Polk County Health Services (PCHS) has been contracted by the county to manage a network of mental health services since 1977.

  • Supervisors canceled the contract late last month, saying county management will provide better oversight and input into the health care it provides to residents.

Details: Nine employees officially transferred from the nonprofit to the county payroll via the supervisor's vote Thursday.

  • Their pay and benefits were retained, including an executive officer position that makes as much as $163,000 a year.
  • The estimated cost will be more than $1.3 million for the fiscal year that begins in July.

Of note: PCHS’s budget was more than $3 million, according to its most recent tax filing.

  • Matt McCoy was the only county supervisor to vote against the plan. He warned last month that it wasn't fully formed and could leave people with inadequate service.

What to watch: The Iowa Department of Human Services must still approve the plan to ensure it meets state service requirements. It remains unclear what might happen if DHS rejects it.

  • Yes, but: The department agreed to some contract amendments already, which assistant Polk County attorney Ralph Marasco, Jr. told supervisors is enough "to believe that they have accepted the direction that we have chosen to pursue."

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