OPINION

A look at the Story County Mental Health Criminal Justice Task Force

Kim Mack, marketing director

Partnerships and collaborations are tools for group problem solving, decision making and action, and United Way of Story County (UWSC) is a strong proponent of these effective, dynamic groups who get things done in the community.

The mission of UWSC is to be a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community. A key component of the mission – partnerships – explains how we pool the expertise, talents, energy and resources of many to help collaborate on solving issues. One way UWSC develops partnerships and invests in the community is by leading or participating in several community collaborations.

This column is highlighting these community collaborations throughout the coming months; the Story County Mental Health Criminal Justice Task Force will be featured this month. UWSC staff participates on this coalition, which meets quarterly. The task force is composed of individuals from across mental health, law enforcement and other community organizations, and works to improve the system-wide response to serve mentally ill individuals.

The task force’s vision is to bring about increased awareness and recognition of the mentally ill to ensure people receive the services they need, to provide better transitions and ensure compliance with case plans, and to address crisis situations more effectively and efficiently.

The method and payment of delivering mental health services has undergone a major reform by the state of Iowa the past several years. Story County is now part of a ten-county region called Central Iowa Community Services (CICS).

Having the task force in place helped Story County better prepare for and keep both providers and consumers updated on the changes. CICS is committed to improving health and successful outcomes for the adults in our region who have mental health disabilities and intellectual/developmental disabilities, including those with multi-occurring issues and other complex human service needs. The region has representatives from each of the counties serving on the administrative team. The state has identified services that need to be in place in all regions, including the existence of a wellness center as one of the core services. Story County is fortunate that this program, provided by NAMI Central Iowa and funded in part by UWSC, is already part of the community.

The task force and many community partners are focused on the delivery of crisis services in our community. The discussions currently underway include what type of services need to be available, what agency or agencies should be delivering the services and how the services can be funded. CICS is involved in all of the discussions. At the very heart of the problem is the decreasing number of mental health providers and the low reimbursement rates providers are paid for services to individuals on Medicaid. This certainly isn’t a new challenge to Story County, or the country. Solutions will only be found when a community collectively works toward a common goal. The task force is one example of how Story County partners come together to find solutions.

United Way of Story County is a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support, and evaluates effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.