CLINTON — The future of the Gannon Center for Community Mental Health, which may close as soon as March 3, was discussed Wednesday by the Clinton County Board of Supervisors as local officials work to reorganize the agency and keep it open.

Plans are for a new organization to be formed, said Board Chairman Lewis Todtz, also a member of the Gannon Center Board of Directors. A local bank is interested in funding the new entity, said Todtz, but some sort of collateral will be needed for a loan of $750,000 to $1 million.

The center, which will form under a different name, must be accredited and then assigned a provider number — a process that can take up to six months, said Marcia Christiansen, director of the Clinton Gannon Center. It would then take a few months for payments to be collected from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies, leaving limited revenue for the six to nine months.

The goal is for service to continue, said Todtz, even with the lag in billing.

County Attorney Mike Wolf was asked what the county could do to participate in such an agreement, given the big stake it has in what happens to the center.

While the county cannot act as guarantor for a bank loan, said Wolf, there are other possibilities. The county can budget block grants for the center, to be used if the fee-for-service structure does not bring in enough revenue to pay the bank notes. The bank would get its guarantee by having the block grants available.

Supervisor Jill Davisson questioned whether the block grants would have to come out of Fund 10, which is currently at its limit.

Whether the county were to directly guarantee the loan or provide the block grants, Wolf pointed out, the money would need to be budgeted to back it up in the event of the worst-case scenario.

“A contract with the county is as good as any guarantee,” said Wolf. “In any case (the county) needs to have the funds available.”

Technical advisers from the state have been contacted to help determine which funds can be used in the planning process, said Wolf. A conference call with the supervisors will take place at 12:30 p.m. today to discuss what options the county has.

“I think the idea is workable,” said Wolf, “(the county) needs to investigate the funding streams.”

The Clinton Gannon Center could close as early as March 3, said Christiansen. Because of the process required for committing public funds, said Wolf, it is not possible for the grants to be in place by that time.

“I don’t know if the bank would loan part of the money with no collateral,” said Christiansen. The Gannon Center uses office space in Mercy South Hospital, and has owns no building or property that could act as collateral.

“What is Plan B?” Davisson asked.

“This is Plan B,” Todtz replied.

The Gannon Center is in this predicament because of underfunding by the state, said Davisson. Iowa is the only state in the country that funds mental health services through property taxes, she said, and taxpayers can’t take on much more of the burden, as some have proposed.

“How do you pay for a $100 item with a $50 check?” she asked.

Davisson called this a “crisis,” and a fight every person in Clinton County should be fighting. Todtz expressed similar thoughts, saying the Gannon Center is “an organization that’s bleeding to death.”

The Gannon Center serves approximately 2,000 people who will be affected by the closing. It provides outpatient services, therapy, medication management and education to schools and other agencies.

The supervisors agreed that if something is not done, the expense to the county will be far more than the $75,000 a month currently paid out for Gannon Center clients with no insurance coverage. The county is mandated to provide these types of services, said Todtz.