SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors will initially look east when trying to find a new group of counties to join to deliver mental health services to low-income residents.
The supervisors by a 4-0 vote in a county board meeting Tuesday approved embarking on negotiations with Rolling Hills Community Services Region.
The need for a new home for the county comes because of the vote last week by the supervisors to pull out of the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services, which also includes Sioux and Plymouth counties. That step will come on June 30, 2018, and so Woodbury County officials have a few months to find a new home.
"I think this is where we need to turn," Supervisor Jeremy Taylor said, as he framed the discussion of an option to join Rolling Hills or perhaps one other adjacent region.
Woodbury, Sioux and Plymouth counties formed the Sioux Rivers group in July 2014 after the state changed from a local to a regional method of delivering mental health services for low-income people. Proponents argued that services could be provided more cost-effectively on a regional basis, particularly for smaller counties.
Over the subsequent months a rocky relationship developed, with other Woodbury County supervisors threatening to leave the group in August 2016. The Sioux Rivers CEO, Sanford officials and others wanted Woodbury County to hold firm and not exit.
In July, Taylor aired concerns that more than $250,000 in taxpayer money is going through Sioux Rivers to the Sanford Community Center for a joint outreach program with the Sioux City school district that serves teens with mental health issues.
The resolution approved last week by the county supervisors said the Sioux Rivers board, management and staff “have demonstrated an unwillingness to operate in a transparent and equitable manner to ensure that appropriate mental health and disability services are provided to the residents of Woodbury County.”
The Iowa Department of Human Services oversees the division of counties into regions. Woodbury County's other option is Southwest Iowa MHDS, which includes adjacent Monona County and seven others down to the Missouri state line.
Taylor has first inquired with Rolling Hills, and an Oct. 4 letter from an official there confirmed the request. That official, Rick Hecht, the Rolling Hills Governance Board chairman, said the majority of the members from Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford and Ida counties would have to agree to add Woodbury County.
Hecht wrote, "We also believe in the prioritization of regional services and long-term sustainability."
Taylor said, "That phrase sounds really good to me -- long-term sustainability."
Taylor and Supervisor Keith Radig are the supervisors who will make contacts with Rolling Hills.
"I will report back with updates along the way," Taylor said.
Department director retirement
In other business Tuesday, the supervisors received the retirement of Human Resources Department Director Ed Gilliland, effective at the end of December.
Gilliland became the department's director in 2014. Gilliland told the Journal he plans to stay in the area, where he has lived and worked for 30 years, and find other employment.
"We have made so many changes and come so far with what we have accomplished since I took over in the spring of 2014, that it seemed appropriate that 2018 start with a fresh face here at the county," Gilliland said.
In the last two weeks, the supervisors have settled the hiring of two new department heads, which constitutes more change in a short time frame than typically occurs in Woodbury County departments.
David Gleiser was picked in late September as director of the Community & Economic Development Department. On Monday, the supervisors in a release announced Ryan Weber will be promoted to the Juvenile Detention Department director position, to succeed Mark Olsen, who is retiring.