O’Brien County may leave Care Connections

Abby Wallin, the judicial mental health advocate for the Northwest Iowa Care Connections and Sioux Rivers mental health regions, talks on Tuesday, Oct. 1, to the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors. The county may consider leaving Care Connections to join Sioux Rivers.

PRIMGHAR—O’Brien County may consider joining a different mental health region.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Primghar, Sherri Bootsma, the chair of the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors, said she had received a phone call the previous week from Plymouth County supervisor Mark Loutsch.

Bootsma said Loutsch asked about the O’Brien County supervisors’ feelings toward being part of Northwest Iowa Care Connections Mental Health & Disabilities Services.

Loutsch is the chair of the regional governance board of Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health & Disabilities Services, which serves Lyon, Plymouth and Sioux counties.

Northwest Iowa Care Connections covers Clay, Dickinson, O’Brien, Osceola and Palo Alto counties, and used to include Lyon County.

Bootsma, who represents O’Brien County on Northwest Iowa Care Connections’ regional governance board, said Loutsch also wondered whether O’Brien County would consider joining Sioux Rivers.

“If we are going to do anything, it has to be before Dec. 1,” Bootsma said. “They asked if we’d be interested in a proposal and they said they would draw something up if we were.”

She called Dickinson County supervisor Bill Leu­­pold, the chair of Northwest Iowa Care Connections’ regional governance board, to let him know the topic was on the O’Brien County supervisors’ agenda.

Bootsma said she wanted to hear feedback from her fellow supervisors before she gave Loutsch an answer.

“You don’t know whether you’re interested until you see what they have to offer,” said O’Brien County auditor Barb Rohwer.

Rohwer had a question for Abby Wallin, the judicial mental health advocate for Northwest Iowa Care Connections and Sioux Rivers.

“Does Sioux Rivers have other programs that we don’t have?” Rohwer said.

“The children’s mental health is maybe a little bit different,” Wallin said. “Sioux Rivers is pursuing that more than Northwest Iowa Care Connections.

“I know that’s a big topic right now,” she said. “The other services, for the most part, are probably about the same.”

Wallin noted there are some mental health services that Sioux Rivers does not have, but Northwest Iowa Care Connections does.

“They’re working on getting those implemented,” she said of Sioux Rivers. “Those services are manda­ted now by the state.”

A couple of the mandated mental health services Wallin was referring to are assertive community treatment and mobile crisis units.

“What would that mean to you, Abby, in your position if we, for example, made a change in regions?” O’Brien County supervisor Dan Fried­richsen asked Wallin.

“I don’t know that it would affect it a lot,” Wallin said. “I work in both regions now and I have the ability to do that. I can’t say that I’d have any intention of leaving any counties behind necessarily.”

She said her job is to serve her clients and serve them where they are located. She is based at the O’Brien County Courthouse in Primghar.

“I enjoy working over there,” Wallin said of Sioux Rivers. “They make a good team and Northwest Iowa Care Connections does, too.

“Sioux Rivers is more in­­clusive when it comes to my role, like being invited to staff meetings and being informed of the decisions they’re making,” she said.

O’Brien County is the fiscal agent for Northwest Iowa Care Connections.

“With Sioux Rivers, you’ve got three counties that are kind of alike size-wise in our region right now and I think that would be a good fit,” said O’Brien County supervisor Dennis Vanden Hull.

The O’Brien County supervisors all agreed they would like to see what Sioux Rivers has to offer.

Sioux Rivers representatives are scheduled to present a proposal at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, in Primghar.