KNOXVILLE — Marion County Supervisor Mark Raymie expressed his frustrations on Tuesday, July 11, with the state of mental health care in Marion County and the state of Iowa, advocating for a county-wide mental health summit in the near future.
Raymie, who is the chairman of the Marion County Board of Supervisors, told those in attendance at the July 11 meeting of the board that he believed county residents were not getting their money’s worth of tax payments to the state for mental health care. He also cited a drop in numbers of committals in the county the past three years.
“My concern about this, the No. 1 issue for me is, our residents are taxed for this,” Raymie said. “I don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth.”
Raymie then said due to changes in state funding of mental health, a proposed $8 million care facility in the region will only be funded at 50 percent, or $4 million, in 2020.
“From a dollars and cents standpoint, that’s nuts,” Raymie added, asking several in attendance if the drop in the number of committals was accurate. “It’s a good trend, [but] I need to know what that number [of committals] represents.”
Marion County Attorney Ed Bull said the reduced number of committals may be a misleading statistic.
“I don’t know why the number has reduced by about 50 percent” Bull said. “My perspective from being on the front lines is, it’s individuals that no longer thing the court system is the remedy. Because of a lack of [available] beds, people don’t try to get committed.”
Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt was present at the meeting, and said he doesn’t believe there are that many fewer committals.
“To me, it doesn’t seem like we have less [committals],” Sandholdt said. “The mental health issue right now is huge. People are frustrated; we take someone [to a facility], they can’t find a bed and they’re released. There are a lot of different factors involved.”
Sandholdt told the supervisors and attendees that he is so concerned with the mental health situation, he made a point to discuss the issue with Gov. Kim Reynolds when she toured the tornado damage in Pleasantville on June 30.
Raymie then suggested hosting some type of mental health summit.
“I would suggest that we have a little Marion County mental health summit,” Raymie said. “Talk about the issues and put together a plan to give to legislators. What I am after is what policy proposal can we make that gets passed and makes sense?”
Sandholdt and Bull indicated to Raymie and the other two supervisors that they would participate in a potential summit, which Raymie thanked them for.
“We have got to focus on what gets the job done with the resources we have,”Raymie added. “It’s not an insignificant amount of money we’re spending [on mental health]”
In other board business, the supervisors approved in a unanimous vote to accept the recommendation of Bull to appoint county resident Brad Thomas to the vacant spot on the county’s Civil Service Commission. Thomas will serve until Dec. 31, 2020.
The vacancy was created when Mike Helle resigned from his spot on the commission after reportedly making controversial comments about President Donald J. Trump.
Bull said he received a number of questions about the opening from various individuals, but only two official applications. Thomas is a military veteran, and he formerly worked in the front office at the Sheriff’s Office, Bull added.
“I think he’ll do a great job,” Bull said of Thomas. “There is work that immediately needs to be done.”
The Board of Supervisors also unanimously OK’d the renewal of two tobacco-sales permits for Keener Oil Co., in Harvey, and New Star Newton, also known as New Star Pella, in the Pella area. Both stores are in unincorporated areas of the county, making them the only two stores to sell tobacco outside of city limits, Sandholdt said.
— Jeff Forward is the regional editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express and Pella Chronicle. He is based in Oskaloosa, and can be reached at 641-672-2581, ext. 425.
MINI-HEADER: Marion County Mental Health Committals
Fiscal Year 2014-15: 215
FY 2015-16: 115
FY 2016-17: 82
Source: Marion County Supervisors