Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Schmitz tells board about children’s mental health

By Jon Gilrain, Ledger correspondent | Apr 10, 2018

The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors heard an update on children’s mental health Monday from Becky Schmitz.

The supervisors also received an update from Employee Benefits Systems about the county’s health insurance coverage for employees and they discussed funding challenges in meeting the county’s need for critical road upgrades.


Mental health

Schmitz, a 30-year mental health professional and a former Jefferson County supervisor, spoke with the board about the work of the state’s Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being (CMHWB) workgroup to establish a children’s system of coordinated mental health services and resources.

Schmitz explained the committee’s core assertions that Iowa has no point of responsibility or dedicated funding for a coordinated children’s mental health and well-being system, and that existing mental health and disability regions in the state are not required to manage or fund children’s services. As a result, children with mental health and other challenges are only served by disconnected services, resources and knowledge. The group proposes a children’s system that coordinates mental health and related services for children and families.

“The challenge is that Iowa has not really had any coordinated system for children’s mental health,” she said. “There isn’t any funding for this yet, but that will probably be part of the next legislative session in 2019.”

According to Schmitz’s presentation, the committee finds that a mental health system must support children so that they and their families have access to quality services throughout the state. Such a system must provide solutions that address education, health care, employment and basic needs.


Health insurance

The board met with representatives from EBS, a third-party administrator which manages health care insurance plans for large organizations. Denise Ballard of EBS spoke about the renewal of insurance coverage provided by Wellmark for the group plan in which the county participates.

Jefferson County, like the city of Fairfield, participates in the Iowa Governmental Health Care Plan, a consortium of about 30 governmental entities in the state of Iowa which pool purchasing power to provide the best possible insurance options for employees and use EBS to broker and manage the best arrangements with providers.

The cost for renewing coverage for the county was expected to rise by over 16 percent due to excessive claims within the IGHCP group, provider cost increases and a new federal tax under the Affordable Care Act. After examining other options in the market, EBS provided a much smaller increase.

“There were a lot of things working against us as we were coming into this renewal,” said Ballard. “So to be proactive, we took IGCHP to the market. We started working with outside insurers other than Wellmark. We looked at what kind of disruption a change would cause, what doctors would you lose, and what pharmacy impact does that have.”

After a thorough look at the options, EBS worked with Wellmark to find another network including pharmaceutical formulary lists that was a close match to the existing plan with a rate increase of less than 5 percent.


Road upgrades

County engineer Scott Cline presented a five-year plan to upgrade roads and bridges. When the board underscored its desire to fast-track paving for Brookville Road and Germanville Road for which it has received numerous complaints, Cline pointed to funding hiccups that could delay completion of those projects for several years.

“We’d have enough money to borrow ahead and do the whole thing,” he said, referring to Brookville Road, “but then we wouldn’t be able to do things like use farm-to-market money for bridges.”

While the board approved the plan as submitted, they held out the possibility of amending the plan if they could work out funding for those two projects.

They discussed the pros and cons of funding issues for those two projects including bonding, availability of federal funds, payments to the county from the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as simply patching the roads and waiting for funding. Discussion left off with the possibility of putting the issue to the voters with a special referendum on the November ballot.

A public hearing date scheduled to discuss vacating a portion of 223rd street originally set for April 23 was rescheduled to 9:30 a.m. April 30.

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