SIOUX CITY | Continuing to push forward out of displeasure on the operation of the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services group, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors by the end of October will seek to get the three-county agency dissolved.

Two weeks ago, the county supervisors voted to leave the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services group, which also includes Sioux and Plymouth counties, at the end of June 2018.

They went a step further on Tuesday in a county board meeting, passing a resolution advocated by Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor that the entire regional agency be dissolved.  That motion passed on a 4-1 vote, over the objections of several people who spoke at the meeting.

“You are tossing this around like it is a childish game,” said Nathan Vander Plaats, of Sioux City.

Taylor contended termination of the region is a more preferable step than withdrawal by Woodbury County, which has yet to be formally completed after the vote of two weeks ago. He added that "withdrawal will likely necessitate termination anyway, because Sioux and Plymouth counties cannot stand alone as a region."

The Iowa Department of Human Services oversees the division of counties into regions. Taylor said his discussions with DHS officials shows “the direction of DHS is to move to larger regions”  rather than small ones.

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.

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 and others in recent meetings wanted Woodbury County to not exit.

The resolution approved Oct. 3 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 next meeting of the Sioux Rivers Board of Governance will be on Oct. 24 at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars.

Taylor's proposal included a vote to have he and Woodbury County Supervisor Keith Radig, who are the two county representatives to the Sioux Rivers Board of Governance, in the upcoming Sioux Rivers board meeting introduce a measure to dissolve Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services.

Supervisor Marty Pottebaum continued his votes toward keeping Woodbury County in Sioux Rivers, voting against Taylor's resolution.  The affirmative votes came from Taylor, Radig, Rocky DeWitt and Matthew Ung. Radig said he agreed with Taylor that Sioux Rivers is not functioning well.

Ten members of the public spoke on the issue during the hour-long discussion, with nine urging the county supervisors to not leave Sioux Rivers. Some people said they feared services to people with substantial mental health needs could be undermined, and two said it appears Taylor and other Woodbury County Board members haven’t been able to compromise and work with other Sioux Rivers officials.

Connie Barrett, a Sioux Rivers employee, said, “The service system is not broken…In the name of the people you serve, you need to change your vote.”

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors last week began looking east when trying to find a new group of counties to join. In that action, the supervisors approved embarking on negotiations with Rolling Hills Community Services Region, with members from Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford and Ida counties, who would have to agree to add Woodbury County.

Taylor said it is conceivable Woodbury County could be joined in some future region by Plymouth and Sioux counties, and that he would not stand in the way of that.

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County and education reporter

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