The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 31, 2014

New look for the mental health budget

By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Clinton County Mental Health Director Becky Eskildsen is expecting a large fund balance within the next fiscal year.

However, she plans to use caution when planning expenditures and programs.

The upcoming fiscal year will be the first where the county will be acting within a Mental Health-Disability Services region. After Eskildsen’s budget is approved, a budget must be approved for the Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services Region that includes Clinton, Jackson, Cedar, Muscatine and Scott counties.

“We have a significant fund balance, but maybe Cedar or Jackson (County) won’t and they’ll be tapping into our fund balance,” Eskildsen said.

County Budget Director Jeannine Clark estimated the mental health department will see a $1.5 million fund balance as of 2015. Eskildsen is unacustomed to having a 40 or 50 percent fund balance.

“At least there’s going to be money in there for a change,” said Clinton County Supervisor Jill Davisson on Wednesday during a budget workshop.

Eskildsen credited this money to the department no longer having to fund medicaid services. In fiscal year 2013, the state began assuming all medicaid-funded program costs.

These medicaid-funded services used to make up approximately 75 percent of the mental health budget.

“They were incredibly costly,” Eskildsen said.

Eskildsen’s budget includes the addition of funds for peer and family support services, which have been recently added to the core requirements. Regions also will be required to offer crisis stabilization units; shirt-term voluntary facilities offering core services.

An estimated $550,000 has been budgeted for it.

However, despite these increases, Eskildsen proposed a budget of $2,840,776. With the medicaid services, previous budgets were $10 million. The budget also is seeing a projected 20 percent decrease in funding for outpatient and inpatient services due to the Affordable Care Act.

“So we’re going to be a lot more solid this year than we ever have,” Eskildsen said.

She hopes to use these extra funds to offer more services to clients within the county. However, she cautions that this is just a projection and she could be under-budgeting for some of the newly required services.