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OUR OPINION: Focus mental health debate on those who need services

Sioux City Journal - 11/2/2017

As the growing conflict over mental health services in Woodbury County moves forward, we urge involved leaders to not lose sight of the fact individuals and families with consequential needs are caught in the middle of all the squabbling. The longer this drags on without a final solution, the more uncomfortable their positions become.

As we have observed this dispute unfold over the last several months, we have been troubled by a gnawing feeling the dialogue is driven too much by contentious relationships between decision-makers and not enough by what's best for those affected by their decisions who seek these important services. The result, we fear, is a rush to an-as-yet-uncertain outcome from which there will be no going back.

With that as a backdrop, we offer these thoughts on what, unfortunately, is a mess:

- We want and we believe constituents should want members of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors to ask questions about how county services are delivered, including mental health services, and how county tax dollars are spent. In our minds, vigilance to identification of opportunities for improvement, whatever the issue, is something all of us should expect of elected leaders.

To these ends, we support a discussion of mental health services aimed at answering this question: Is Woodbury County providing such services in the most beneficial, cost-effective way possible?

- We believe the 3-2 vote on Oct. 3 by the Board of Supervisors to withdraw Woodbury County from Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services was premature because no replacement plan exists. Woodbury County should have had a replacement plan in place and should have made a convincing case to the public for the replacement plan before voting to pull out of Sioux Rivers.

In our view, the Woodbury County board should reconsider - at least for the time being - its decision to withdraw from Sioux Rivers to allow more time for discussion of Sioux Rivers membership and, if necessary, study of alternatives.

- Having said that, Woodbury County should be allowed to withdraw from Sioux Rivers if it wishes. On Monday, the Sioux Rivers board voted 2-1 to prevent Woodbury County from withdrawal, creating the potential for legal action by Woodbury County.

On the other hand, it isn't clear to us why a majority of the Woodbury County board wants to dissolve Sioux Rivers altogether. Why is the future of Sioux Rivers a concern of Woodbury County supervisors if Woodbury County withdraws?

We suggest a compromise: If Woodbury County insists on withdrawal, today or tomorrow, the Sioux Rivers board shouldn't stand in the way. In return, Woodbury County supervisors should abandon their push for dissolving Sioux Rivers.

- Before this dispute reaches the point of no return (if it hasn't already), however, we urge those involved on all sides to put whatever happened in the past in the past, turn down the temperature of dialogue, refocus this conversation in more productive fashion and give the spirit of compromise every opportunity for success. We're not convinced that's happened to this point.

Individuals and families in need deserve nothing less.

 
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