Genesis CEO, board president talk with supes about leaving HICS

Genesis Development chief executive officer Terry Johnson and Genesis board president Donna Sutton rebuked the county supervisors Monday for action taken last week to withdraw from the Heart of Iowa Community Services (HICS) region.

The decision was based primarily on a lack of communication, Dallas County’s dominance in influence and decision-making, and frustration in providing financial oversight. Dawn Rudolph, who represents the county on the Heart of Iowa board, also said last week that county residents have been unable to access the short-term crisis management services at the Hope Wellness Center in Woodward.

On Monday, Johnson asked Rudolph specifically about the Hope Wellness Center. She told him that she hadn’t gotten answers from Heart of Iowa CEO Darci Alt about why Greene County residents had been denied the use of Hope Wellness. She said Ellen Ritter, a Greene County employee who was hired as disability services coordinator to be part of the Heart of Iowa management team, also hadn’t been able to find out the reason for the denials.

“She never asked me. I knew all of them, and she never came to me,” Johnson said.

Heart of Iowa contracts with Genesis Development to operate Hope Wellness Center. According to Johnson, 30 individuals have been referred to the center since it opened in August, 2015. Eight have been denied. “That’s a pretty good percentage of people getting in there,” Johnson said.

Johnson called it “short sighted” not to have looked for someone who knew the answers. He said the question should have been asked of Genesis, not CEO Alt. “It’s our program,” he said.

There are 17 Genesis employees who work at the Hope Wellness Center. Johnson worries that without Greene County in the Heart of Iowa region, there will not be enough funding to support Hope Wellness, and that employees will need to be laid off.

“You made your decision,” Johnson said. “The point is, why weren’t we involved in this? Why weren’t we asked how it would impact Genesis?”

Genesis Development originated in Greene County in 1973 and now has facilities in 13 Iowa locations. In the last year Genesis provided services to nearly 3,000 Iowans with disabilities. “I’m offended that this is our home county and we weren’t even asked,” Johnson told the supervisors.

He said that when the state regionalized services for the disabled, Genesis considered the Heart of Iowa region as its home region.

The supervisors plan to become part of the Central Iowa Community Services (CICS) region. Johnson warned the supervisors that if Greene County joins the Central Iowa region, he will not recommend calling CICS “home” to the Genesis board

He is very familiar with both those regions, and said while CICS provides great training for the Genesis staff, HICS provides services. He said the processes CICS uses to pay service providers (like Genesis) are “burdensome” and that Genesis missed out on funds from a $1.1 million grant because the way CICS wanted to disburse the money was considered by the Genesis CFO not to be compliant with federal guidelines.

Rudolph said there have always been questions at the HICS board meetings, and they’re often repeat questions. She then said, “Like I’ve said, like I’ve told the board, if somebody else would like to take on this committee, they’re welcome because it’s been very frustrating.”

Johnson said Rudolph has served the county well on the board. He repeated that he’s concerned about the process of the decision-making, “because this now hits us full in the face, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about it… It could potentially harm us.”

Genesis board president Sutton said she was shocked to read of the supervisors’ decision to leave Heart of Iowa on GreeneCountyNewsOnline. She said she went to the Oct. 23 meeting not only to support Johnson, but to learn what the issues were. “As county residents we want to know, because we feel that Genesis is such a presence in Greene County and in the entire state. It really makes me sad that if there were big issues, Terry wasn’t notified,” she said.

She said Johnson would have worked to resolve problems if he knew they existed, and that the Genesis board would have, too.

“If truly Greene County doesn’t fit in the region, that’s your decision to leave… But I feel things should have been talked through, to see if that really was the correct way to go after the history of what’s taken place in the past. We were super disappointed. I just wanted to say that,” Sutton said.

County board chair John Muir apologized for not thinking of Genesis. “Our thoughts were that we’re trying to be part of this and it’s not working for us. It didn’t feel right. It felt like something was being held back,” he said.

He said his concern was more about unanswered financial questions and seemingly non-existent checks and balances than it was about the services provided.

“For us, it’s how it affected Greene County, the residents and the people who need those services, and the taxpayers. How is our money being accounted for? That was our reason for thinking something would be a better fit,” Muir said.

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