Mental Health Region graphic

CLINTON — Eastern Iowa Mental Health Governing Board Chairman and Scott County representative Ken Beck took issue with who Clinton County representative Jim Irwin Jr. and Muscatine County representative Jeff Sorensen shared information with, he said during a recent board meeting.

Beck said he was concerned about and did not appreciate that Irwin and Sorensen had “shotgunned out” information to multiple individuals and not just the governing board. He believes the proposals, including appointing committees within the governing board, need to be discussed as a board and with the board chairman.

“We need to really work together as a group to go through some of these items as all members instead of just the two of you working on it,” Beck said. “And I appreciate, I surmise that all of this came from your sessions with the workforce development group because I know we’ve discussed before the parallelisms between it. But I just had wished you had come to us first before you blast it all out to everybody that was on that list.”

Jackson County representative Jack Willey referenced information Sorensen sent to Region CEO Lori Elam regarding changes and questions about the region’s bylaws. Willey said he believes the recent meeting was necessary to discuss the proposed changes, stating he believes the region board needs to have “all our ducks in a row” when it holds a joint meeting with all five counties.

Willey also referenced Irwin saying he did not think Elam had the power to cancel the meeting, which he called inappropriate.

“I just really thought it was totally inappropriate for Jim, for you, to tell Lori that she didn’t have the power,” Willey said. “She is our CEO. The chairman and the CEO are the ones who put together the agenda and they call the shots. I’ll shut up now because I’m mad.”

Irwin referenced the governing board trying to get a joint Supervisor meeting since September, which he said the region keeps postponing.

“We keep postponing it for different reasons,” Irwin said. “We had something set and we had to change it as of Monday (May 4) because there was a conflict. I was not privy to the email that Dawn had sent to Lori that they were trying to cancel it, trying to rearrange it due to two of her board members (being) unable to attend. It’d have been a different tone if that had been the case.”

Beck stressed the governing board needs to be on the same page before it brings the 28E agreement to the individual county Boards of Supervisors. He said the 28E agreement will be fine tuned “as long as the cows come home” but added each iteration of the document will be a better product. Beck added if the governing board members cannot get on the same page they will look foolish in front of their individual Board of Supervisors.

“That was my decision to make as far as canceling the meeting,” Beck said. “I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t change it. And I didn’t know about Dawn’s situation but I’m glad that we did because they have concerns about their participation in this region.”

Beck believes the region needs to hold a strategic planning session to go over the ideas posed by Irwin. He stressed the importance of all governing board members displaying a unified front since all counties have different local legislators. Beck said he is not necessarily against doing something to help the region’s situation but said they need to do it with a united front and internally with background on what was originally done by the region and where they have gone and need to go. He added the workforce information provided by Irwin is good information to help in the process.

Irwin proposed the board consider forming committees among governing board members to oversee financials, contract management and service provider relations and legislative advocacy. Irwin in his proposal said of the five board members, two board members would sit on the financial committee, two members would sit on the contract management and service provider relations committee and one person would sit on the legislative committee.

Irwin said the representative appointed to legislative advocacy would serve as the region’s spokesperson. He said the appointed representative would be an advocate for the region.

“We should all be advocating, all, for the mental health region in our counties but we would have one person that would hopefully be a little more in tune than and doing it on a more regular basis than when it just becomes time,” Irwin said.

Irwin added he believes there has been a disconnect with conversations he had with a couple of providers between what happens in their conversation and what is being presented to the board.

Cedar County representative Dawn Smith said she does not support Irwin’s proposal.

“I think if you want to educate yourself and you want to talk with your legislators and you want to do all of that, that is perfectly OK,” Smith said. “If you have questions about contracts you should ask them. I am not comfortable with two people going to the meeting and then turning around especially on the financial end and making those decisions or deciding what gets brought to the governing board.”

Committee Appointed Director Nancy Nauman supports the region holding a strategic planning session.

“I think a unified approach is going to be really important if the region’s going to kind of get back on the track,” Nauman said. “I mean obviously you’ve been through tough times. The whole region’s had some difficulties here over the past several months but hopefully that can be worked on. But it is going to mean that everybody has to be open to talking about things that make them uncomfortable and considering ideas that make them uncomfortable because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to move forward.”