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Redesign update draws more questions from board, staff

There were more questions — and not many more answers — Tuesday during a review of the proposed 12-county regional collaborative of human services.

A representative with Accenture, the consulting service that drew up the redesign, was on hand to answer questions for the Mower County Board of Commissioners as well as local staff.

But firm answers are hard to come by, said Mark Howard, because so many variables remain.

Indeed, the original proposal has already likely lost one of its 12 participants: Freeborn County officials have made it no secret that they're not interested in the collaboration. Any configuration different from the original will change the model, Howard said.

The potential redesign, which has been in the works since 2009, promises a collective savings of $25 million to $40 million in the next five years. Supporters of the redesign project claim it offers the potential for better outcomes at less cost, with more regional control of human services delivery.


Everything, however, including funding costs and projected savings, hinges on the participation rate.

By the end of June, each of the 12 counties must make a choice of three options: Join the collaboration; refuse to join; or join with certain conditions.

It's the last "free" decision they'll make, said Craig Oscarson, county coordinator. Once the number of participating counties is established, other decisions will have a price tag, he said.

"If they join, that means they're willing to commit funding for the planning and implementation stages," Oscarson said, "but we won't know those costs until we know how many counties are in."

Informational meetings throughout the region reveal that most counties want a service center — a hub where clients can receive their services — within their limits.

But "there are not guarantees, because we don't know how many counties are going to commit," said Julie Stevermer, director of Mower County Human Services, who has said the redesign is being driven by a growing patient base and dwindling funding.

Service centers will be decided after a study finds where the clients are, Howard said. "Once we know where the concentration of need is, the question is, what services are needed."

The study will reveal each county's capabilities, skills, services and pockets of expertise, he said, "but that doesn't mean every client will go to that county; it means they'll learn from that county."


Input from those on the front lines — the human services employees — is crucial, commissioners said.

"We're still trying to figure this all out," said Mike Ankeny, chairman of the board. "There's too much out there yet, and we want what's best for everybody."

What wouldn't work is having all 900 affected employees throughout the 12 counties offering input now, Stevermer said.

"You can't do that and get anything done," she said, "so the implementation phase will be when you get that input."

Should Mower County join the collaboration, it would likely do it under at least five conditions, Oscarson said, including having a local service center.

"We don't want to lose any jobs in the county, obviously," said Commissioner Ray Tucker. "It's still about jobs here."

The county board will hold another public meeting before its decision deadline date of June 30.

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