Lynne Hermansen
County Commissioners approved using $700,00 in the county’s reserve funds for the first year of the Developmental Supports Fund program to hire 7.5 full time employees.
Commissioners Charlotte O’Hara and Michael Ashcraft voted against using the reserve funds because they said they had concerns about the county’s lack of a long-term plan for the program.
“We obviously all want to help this population,” O’Hara said. “What is the plan for after five years? We should at least include in the overall budget so we are not driving over a cliff in five years.”
Chad VonAnnen, executive director of developmental supports, said it was an urgent need for the intellectual and emotional disability communities of the county and the State waiting list was lengthy.
“I see it as a serious and ongoing need,” he said. “We will drive down the reserve fund and then move over the funds.”
O’Hara said the county was setting up a potential time bomb for the General Fund.
“I am uncomfortable with not having a long usage plan for financing the need of an ongoing budget plan long term,” she said.
VonAnnen said they would continue to monitor the General Fund.
Ed Eilert, commissioner chair, said all plans were planned ahead on a five year cycle.
Penny Postoak-Ferguson, county manager, said they wouldn’t wait for year five and would adjust funds every year for the budget.
Becky Fast, commissioner, said it was immoral that there was a 10 year wait list and wanted to know how many people were on the wait list.
VonAnnen said there were 900 county residents on the list waiting for services.
“This will provide an avenue to access service right away,” he said.
Fast said the behavioral health mental team help was needed immediately.
The five year funding for the 7.5 full-time equivalent positions will include case manager Positions, a community health behavioral team and employment specialists. Funds will also support a competitive employee program.
JCDS currently has 14.5 case managers supporting 420 people with six referrals in process.
VonAnnen said adding 1.5 FTE will provide services to approximately 45 additional people which will include those on the statewide IDD waiting list, moving into Johnson County, or recently determined eligible for IDD services.
In 2021 83 people were served throughout the year with the Community Behavioral Health Team, but there was a 28 person waiting list.
“This service assists people in crisis situations as well as their support teams (families, community-service providers, etc.),” he said. “Many of these situations involve complex support needs for the person including intense behavior challenges. People can be at risk of hospitalization, incarceration, or loss of services due to the nature of their needs.”
The team currently consists of three staff supporting 50 people with caseloads of 20, 20 and 10 respectively. One staff is dedicated to training.
“Adding one FTE serves the immediate waiting list needs of 28 people with the second position focused on additional referrals, future needs, and responding to increased demand for training across the provider network,” VonAnnen said.
The County currently has six Employment Specialists and two job coaches to support our vendor relationship with Vocational Rehabilitation.
Shirley Allenbrand, commissioner, said she had the confidence they would have the much needed parameters in place as they would look at the funds every year.
Janee Hanzlick, commissioner, said she fully supported it as it was a no-brainer to her.
“It is unconscionable to not do this,” she said.
No one on the board is in opposition to addressing the need, O’Hara said, as it had been an ongoing issue for years but she was still concerned about what she saw as a lack of an overall plan for funding.
“I am wanting to make sure taxpayers understand,” she said.
Ashcraft said it seemed it wasn’t in alignment with ongoing revenue sources.
VonAnnen said Ashcraft was correct and they had requested additional resources.
“This is why we looked at the reserve fund,” he said.
Eilert said the positions were needed and the county had the finances for the developmental support positions.
O’Hara said once again she wasn’t arguing that the services weren’t needed.
“How do we make sure we look at the ongoing funding stream,” she said. “The cost to the county? What are you cutting back to add this expenditure? Temporary funding for permanent positions is my concern.”
Ashcraft said it was a tough one because VonAnnen was attempting to do the right thing with true intentions and create a positive impact for the community.
“But I struggle with the gap of ongoing funding sources,” he said.
O’Hara said she desperately wanted to help fund it but not using money from the Reserves Fund.
“It failed at the State level when I tried years ago,” she said.