SIOUX CITY | The ability of Woodbury County to join a new regional mental health agency will ultimately lie in the hands of seven Siouxland county boards of supervisors.

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a resolution to officially seek to join the Rolling Hills Community Services Region. The supervisors are plowing ahead with a departure from another group they have been in since 2014, the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services Board.

While legal action could be forthcoming due to the departure from Sioux Rivers, the Woodbury County Supervisors again said the wide differences between Woodbury County and Plymouth and Sioux counties in Sioux Rivers were not solvable.

In a meeting of the Sioux Rivers governance board on Oct. 30, the push by Woodbury County elected officials to not only leave the Sioux Rivers regional group but also to disband the entire agency failed by identical 2-1 votes at the meeting in Le Mars.

Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor in the Tuesday meeting said the machinations between Woodbury County and the other two counties to separate could include a lawsuit, or perhaps the less extreme step of arbitration. At that point, Woodbury County Attorney P.J. Jennings cautioned Taylor to stop speaking in the public meeting about possible litigation.

Taylor has been consulting with the Heidman Law Firm of Sioux City.

Flipping the discussion forward, in passing the resolution, the Woodbury County Supervisors spoke optimistically about the potential for a great working relationship and mental health services for people in Rolling Hills.

"It is time we got into a healthy situation...on behalf of those who need mental health services," Taylor said.

Rolling Hills Community Services Region includes Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford and Ida counties. Taylor explained that is the only region on the radar, as Southwest Iowa MHDS, which includes adjacent Monona County and seven others down to the Missouri state line, has no interest in adding Woodbury County.

Taylor said discussions to join Rolling Rivers are underway. He said the ultimate decision lies in a majority vote of the seven county boards of supervisors, with four needed for Woodbury County to join.

Supervisor Keith Radig said Rolling Rivers was originally comprised of four counties, then Cherokee, Ida and Carroll counties later joined.

The state changed from a county-based to a regional method of delivering mental health services for low-income people in 2014, and counties joined together into regions.

Woodbury, Sioux and Plymouth counties formed the Sioux Rivers group in July 2014. Over the subsequent months a rocky relationship developed, with other Woodbury County supervisors threatening to leave the group in August 2016.

In early October, the Woodbury County supervisors voted, 3-2, to leave Sioux Rivers at the end of the current fiscal year in June 2018, citing its longstanding displeasure with the regional group. In that and subsequent meetings, Sioux Rivers CEO Shane Walter, of Sioux County, and people from Sioux City spoke against the dissolution.

Some people said they feared services to people with mental health needs could be negatively impacted. Others said it appears Taylor hasn't been able to compromise with Sioux Rivers officials, an assertion Taylor disputes.


County and education reporter

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