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County Supervisors Discuss Funding

By Staff | Mar 13, 2008

Palo Alto County Supervisors continued a discussion regarding a mental health during their weekly meeting Tuesday, March 4. The board also discussed several conditional use permits during the session.

After discussing funding for Integrated Services Pathways Program with County Relief Director Maureen Sandberg a week earlier. Sandberg provided more information about the program, and also brought the person in charge of the program to meet with the Supervisors.

The Integrated Services Pathways program meets with prisoners at the county jail, performs an evaluation and provides counseling, but only if the prisoner wants to participate in the program. However, the program has lost its state and federal funding. That means the counties served by ISP are being asked to pick up the funding.

According to Sandberg and Supervisor Keith Wirtz, a representative to the Seasons Center Board, the program faces an uncertain future because of the funding situation.

“We talked about funding for it,” Wirtz noted, “and some of the counties are going to fund it, but we haven’t decided here yet.”

“That annoys me,” commented Supervisor Jerry Hofstad. “The Government starts a program and pays for it to start out, then they shove it onto the counties and we have to pay for it. If the Government wants it so darn bad, then let them pay for it. Otherwise, forget it.”

When asked how long the ISP program would last locally with the money that remains, without further funding from the county, Sandberg estimated it could run until May or possibly into June of this year.

“There was discussion that some of the counties weren’t sure if the program was really that helpful,” Wirtz said. “It seems like there is a lot of repeat business for the program, with the same people being served all the time.”

“That is a problem,” agreed Supervisor Ron Graettinger. “How long to we hold these people’s hands through this program? They’ll get better if they want to. We can’t make them get better.”

It was noted that the county had discussed funding the program at half of what had been requested.

“One thing I would remind you of is if we don’t have the ISP, any mental health costs, such as prescriptions and examinations will have to be paid for by the Sheriff’s Office and jail,” Sandberg pointed out.

“The goal of this program is to keep these people from being committed and they’ve had some successes,” Wirtz noted.

“If we approve this, what program will come next?” Hofstad asked. “Some bleeding heart will dream up a new unfounded program and we’ll have to pay for it. We can only keep our brother so long, and I think its time he starts keeping himself.”

Supervisor Ron Graettinger noted that data from the program indicated that it had actually helped four people in Palo Alto County.

Koree Muilenburg, the ISP Coordinator and Case Management Social Worker, reported that the program serves up to 20 to 25 people a week in the eight counties using the ISP. “Currently, it takes $7,000 a month for the ISP, and that includes salaries, therapy, travel and expenses.”

Muilenburg is working with four people in the county at this time, and visits Emmetsburg each Tuesday.

“I’ve been coming to Emmetsburg every week for the past six months,” Muilenburg reported. “Currently, we have an 80-85 percent success rate, and that’s if I can work with these people for one month.”

“Is there a common problem with these people?” asked Board Chair Leo Goeders.

“It’s drugs and drug use,” Muilenburg answered quickly.

Palo Alto County Sheriff Denny Goeders, sitting in on the discussion, also spoke up. “Yes, drugs are just huge, and burglaries that are being committed to get the money to buy drugs.”

Sheriff Goeders noted that there are 160 hog sites in Palo Alto County, and each has a building that is a potential burglary target. “It’s just like a vegetable garden out there.”

“We’re looking for grants to try and fund the ISP with,” Muilenburg said, “so that you counties don’t have to fund it.”

“This is a good program,” Denny Goeders told the board. “It assists with any medications, and with drug and mental issues for the prisoners. A lot of people have serious problems when they come into the jail and this organization really helps us. It calms a lot of things down.”

“The Clay County Jailer echoed a lot of what Denny just said,” Wirtz noted. “Also, some people just don’t have anyone for support and the ISP is there for them.”

“I’m really in total favor of this program,” the sheriff said. “If anything, for the liability protection and the program’s support.”