The Ottumwa Courier

August 7, 2013

CEO named for mental health region

By LAURA CARRELL Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — In another step to solidify the mental health redesign in Iowa, the Wapello County Board of Supervisors approved the hire of Jennifer Vitko as CEO of the South Central Behavioral Health Region Tuesday.

The newly created SCBHR includes mental health services in Wapello, Davis and Appanoose counties.

The board also approved Vitko's salary and health insurance and the amounts.

The cost sharing between the three counties means a change in how much each will provide.

"Wapello County's (portion) is reduced because other counties are kicking in part of the salary and benefits," Siegel said.

The mental health redesign hit with full force in 2010 when counties were pressured to look at how they were funding mental health services, Vitko said. The idea is to equalize services across the region, and budgets are now determined on a per-capita basis.

"Here in Wapello County, we've done well budgeting, and we've been able to provide for the needs of the community," she said. "But now, instead of $2.4 million, I'll be budgeting with $1.6 million" due to that redesign.

SCBHR submitted their letter of intent to regionalize between the three counties on July 1.

"When we looked at who to align with, it has to be contiguous counties and there have to be at least three," Vitko explained. "We looked at funding and we looked at philosophies, and this was the best fit."

They have now been approved and are their own regional administrative entity with Vitko as the point person under the governing board.

"Our region is unified — we do things the same way, we report the same, we submit as a region. That's the foundation of our business entity," she said.

She emphasizes, though, that the services provided by these three counties aren't changing.

"The funding may change, the expenses may change, but we're operating as a region with local access. We'll continue to provide services here locally in Wapello County," she said. "These counties worked together prior to being told we have to, and we've worked together in many different mental health areas."

The support of the respective county boards of supervisors has been integral in providing the mental health services each community needs.

"There's always the possibility of new programs if funding stays on the local level. We're fortunate in this region because the board of supervisors are so supportive of mental health and meeting the needs of the community. They've been advocates for mental health services and support," Vitko said.

In other business, the board approved the hiring of two clerks for the county recorder's office, providing assistance to recorder Lisa Kent and clerk Robin Hart.