Supervisors eye smaller-scale mental health services provider

by Savannah Howe

Cerro Gordo County is taking strides to move away from County Social Services (CSS), a 22-county-wide mental health and disability services program, to Central Iowa Crisis Services (CICS), a similar organization that serves neighboring counties such as Franklin and Greene.

The need for change

Cerro Gordo County Supervisor Chris Watts said that it’s time for the county to pursue a service that can offer more immediate and personal help to people in need in the county.

“[CICS] seems like a better fit for all of Cerro Gordo County, including rural areas south of Mason City, where the people on the Franklin County border may know of CICS’s services,” explained Watts. “In my opinion, CSS is too big to function like it used to anymore. Sometimes, the phrase ‘bigger is better’ is not true.”

CSS serves 22 Iowa counties stretching from the Mississippi River to the western Emmet County, a four-hour drive in all.

Watts explained that CICS appeals to the county because it currently serves just 11 counties and doesn’t aim to grow to CSS’s size.

“In fact, CICS wouldn’t even accept Cerro Gordo if it weren’t for the facilities we can offer,” he continued. “We have Mercy’s hospital and offices, and Prairie Ridge.”

The Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors recently approved the motion to give CICS permission to perform financial research on the county; CICS will contact the state to find out if it can feasibly take on Cerro Gordo as a 12th jurisdiction.

Should the state decide that CICS and Cerro Gordo can form a partnership, the county must  declare separation from CSS by Nov. 1 of this year. However, the county won’t transition to CICS until the start of Fiscal Year 2019.

“If we switched services in the middle of the fiscal year, that would put a burden on everyone, including taxpayers,” stated Watts, “and we don’t want to put a financial strain on anyone.”

Residents of the county who use resources provided by CSS wouldn’t have to worry about an interruption of services during those eight months, however.  Watts explained that one of the first things that the county supervisors would address with CICS is the availability of state-mandated core mental health, behavioral and disability services.

“It is our due diligence as county supervisors to make sure that happens,” Watts said. “Also, we would ask CICS for employee retention. We have

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