‘Something needs to change’
Supervisors delay action on an option to withdraw from CSS
Providing successful mental health care to people who need it has little to do with the building where the care is delivered. It’s about compassion and spending time with that person, according to Randy Hoover, program director for Freedom Pointe.
“All we want is for someone to sit down and talk to us and treat us like a real person,” Hoover, who also suffers from borderline personality disorder, said during the Webster County Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday morning. About 25 people attended.
Supervisors were considering approving a resolution that would allow them the option of withdrawing from the County Social Services region.
The resolution would have given supervisors the opportunity to consider other alternatives. It does not necessarily mean the county would end its arrangement with CSS.
CSS often serves as an access point for secondary needs. Those with primary needs are often referred to outpatient care at UnityPoint Health — Berryhill Center. Those with tertiary needs are sometimes helped by YourLife Iowa.
After hearing from multiple people — including a jail administrator, police chief, and area providers — supervisors opted to table the resolution regarding CSS. The board will once again consider the resolution during a special meeting at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Prior to the board’s decision, there was much talk surrounding the eventual placement of an access center in Webster County, which Alison Hauser, the West Quadrant administrator for CSS, said could be in jeopardy if the supervisors approve the resolution.
“Being in limbo like this, our governing boards will not invest the money in this county to do this access center,” Hauser said. “This is important for our community. The numbers I care about are suicide rates and the number of people being killed here in this community. I am not a business model. I am taking care of people model. I understand that these are issues and things we need to work on, but we work hard and we work well.”
Hauser added, “What’s going to happen is that access center will be put in a different county. It will cost a substantial amount of money for transportation. It will cost a substantial amount of money to transport those individuals and you will lose an opportunity here to do something good for your community.”
Hoover, who started Freedom Pointe with help from Ken Hays, former Webster County community services director, and Bob Lincoln, CEO of CSS, said although providers and supervisors are doing well in their own respects, they need to do more.
Hoover said providers are often heard from, but rarely are the people who are actually suffering and receiving treatment for mental health conditions.
“As a consumer, we really don’t give a rat’s behind if there is an access center in Webster County,” Hoover said. “We really don’t. Not that it’s a bad thing. But it’s a little late. Not the opening of the building. It’s just a little too late because when I am having an episode or when clients are having episodes, we don’t care if you eventually get us in an access center.”
Hoover added, “Everybody is doing a good job. But you aren’t doing anywhere near enough. You need to do more. We can have the access center, we can have this, we can have that. But do you know what a person with a mental health episode really wants? What they really want is for someone to sit beside them and talk to them. We don’t need a fancy building. We need don’t need fancy trained people. We just need somebody that cares.”
Among the board’s concerns with CSS has been its transparency.
“We talked about transparency and communication,” Hauser said. “I think it goes both ways. I think that has been an epic fail on the board’s relationship with CSS.”
Supervisor Keith Dencklau remained interested in finding out the number of people who are served by CSS in Webster County.
Dencklau, acknowledging that he is making decisions with taxpayer money, has asked for that specific number in past meetings and has been disappointed by the answers he’s received.
“Are we helping 10 people in the county with that $1.5 million and the rest of it’s going to the region, or are we helping 500 people?” Dencklau asked. “I don’t know why I can’t get that number. I represent the county. I have to find the best place to spend that $1.5 million. If it’s with you guys that’s great, you do a great job. But if we look at some place else and find a better place to spend that $1.5 million where our people in Webster County are getting better services — we are elected to do that. It’s our duty to look.”
Representing CSS, Lincoln said he could get Dencklau the number he was looking for.
“How long does it take to get it?” Dencklau said. “I have been asking for five years.”
Lincoln indicated the number of people from Webster County who are served is a complicated number to figure out.
“When we serve someone and the most complex folks get moved, some people get moved out of state and no longer belong to Webster,” Lincoln said. “So we have people shifting residents all the time. But there’s no question a proportional number of people are being served in Webster as they are across the region.”
Lincoln added, “If you want to go at-risk for Webster County only, then you have to restrict people from leaving Webster County. You have to say that everything you are going provide has to be in Webster. And that’s the whole notion of pooling.”
Dencklau said, “I just want to know, is it 500 or 20? People are asking me how many people use that service. Last time you were here, I have asked. How many people get serviced in Webster County? 1.5 million for 150 people? Is that what we are doing?”
There didn’t appear to be a clear answer on the exact number by the end of the meeting.
Fonda Police Chief Alex Leu and Humboldt County Supervisor Sandy Loney were among those in attendance who pleaded for Webster County supervisors to stay in the CSS region.
“Webster County is our hub,” Leu said. “A notice of intent to withdraw, it has that look to it of — well Webster County wants to look at its options, but every day it has the appearance of you may be gone.”
Leu said that on Monday night he had to help homeless people from Fort Dodge find a warm place to be in Fonda.
“I need you in my region,” Leu said. “I am coming here almost weekly now trying to empower these people going out every day dealing with mental health. I have never dealt more with the Webster County Sheriff’s Office. I work with them every day. I am getting homeless people all the time.”
Leu said there are agreements in place for Webster County to be the home of the new access center.
“Webster County is always our hub,” Leu said. “Whether you want to be that hub or not, you’re are hub. Fonda needs the access center here. Pocahontas County needs it, Humboldt needs it. Wright, Emmet County needs it here.”
Loney, said each member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors wishes for Webster County to stay in the CSS region.
“We want to work with Webster County,” Loney said. “We are close. We have several of the services and providers here. So please don’t jeopardize us.”
Addressing Hauser, Campbell said, “I am not sure where this gloom and doom presentation is coming from. But the fact is the money you are investing is our money. We have been a great partner for all these years. We have invested millions of dollars. We are a region. We understand people are transit. We are going to be a good neighbor.”
Campbell added, “We have great providers here that do provide services. So to say that we are going to go to another region or do something else and destroy relationships with these guys, it’s not going to happen.”
Supervisor Niki Conrad seemed to favor looking at other options, while Supervisor Bob Thode indicated he wasn’t sure about voting for the resolution.
“To me if we were going to do this, I would want us to have something in place,” Thode said. “And if we don’t have something in place, either we fix what we’ve got or have something in place before we move on.”
Thode added, “If we don’t (have a plan in place), then leave it alone.”
Conrad said she remembered sitting in the audience about a year ago, hearing the discussions about CSS. That was before she became a supervisor.
“I kept thinking we have got to make it work,” Conrad said. “There’s too many people’s lives on the line.”
She added, “I have personally been affected by the ramifications of suicide in the last couple of months. I take this very personally. I think every person in this room has recognized mental health is a huge issue not just in Webster County, but Humboldt, in Iowa, in the United States.”
But at the same time, Conrad said not enough people are getting the help they need.
“We are seeing record numbers of farmers and veterans having suicidal ideation,” Conrad said. “We are not doing enough and the thing that I see since I sat out there a year ago, is not much has changed. That’s what is frustrating.”
Conrad added, “Something needs to change. And if it’s signing a piece of paper that we intend to leave and giving us that option. If that means I am coming to each place and spending a day with you, I’ll do it. Because something needs to change.”