Government

Linn, Johnson once again seek funding for access centers

East Central Region caps funding for access centers, directs rest to special projects fund

The Johnson County Access Center is under construction at 270 Southgate Ave. in Iowa City. The regional mental health fa
The Johnson County Access Center is under construction at 270 Southgate Ave. in Iowa City. The regional mental health facility is expected to open in December. (Rendering courtesy Neumann Monson Architects)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn and Johnson counties mental health access centers yet again are in search for funding after a 7-2 vote capped funding for access centers at $1 million and designated the rest for a special-projects fund.

The East Central Region governance board voted to support access centers earlier this year by increasing the levy that’s assessed to each of the region’s counties, bridging the $1.3 million in operational costs to the centers in the first year.

The levy will increase three cents in fiscal year 2021, from 30.91 cents to 34 cents. It is assessed to each county based on population.

East Central Region CEO Mae Hingtgen, however, proposed at a governance board meeting last month to cap regional access center funding at $1 million and designate the additional $170,000 to a special projects fund.

At a Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, Supervisor Ben Rogers said the move “caught all of us by surprise,” with only he and Johnson County Supervisor Pat Heiden voting against the motion.

“Special projects have never been discussed or identified,” Rogers said. “To put it in perspective, that $170,000 is about one month of operation costs for Linn County (Access Center). These are real dollars with real implications for our operations.”

Director of the Linn County Access Center Erin Foster said the region’s decision will not affect Linn County’s contracts with mental health and substance use providers, which are expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors Wednesday.

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The contracts detail what services will be provided to the Access Center. Funding for the mental health providers will come from the East Central Region through the county, and funding for the Area Substance Abuse Council will come directly from the county.

Foundation 2, the Abbe Center and the Penn Center will provide mental health services to the Linn County facility.

Renovations for the Access Center, 501 13th St. NW in Cedar Rapids, began Monday.

The East Central Region encompasses nine counties including Linn and Johnson, both of which are planning to open access centers this year.

Linn County asked for $857,043 from the region for the first year. Linn County is contributing $661,402 to the center for substance use disorder treatment, which doesn’t quality for dollars from the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Johnson County asked for $491,827 from the region for their first seven months of operation. The county would contribute $468,956 in substance-use disorder funding.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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