County honors final payment to Compass Pointe

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Regular business at Compass Pointe came to a halt April 15, but the treatment center is seeking fourth quarter financial commitments from the nine counties which had funded it. Dickinson County Treasurer Kris Rowley is the county's representative to Compass Pointe. She asked the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors to consider the payment at its April 16 meeting.

The county had committed $17,243 for the year, and had yet to pay $4,310.75 for April, May and June of this year. The county board ultimately decided to pay the remaining funds, but did so on a 4-1 vote.

"I felt that Compass Pointe should be reimbursed for the services they had already done, so that's what I approached the board about," Rowley said. "Even though they're dissolving, they still have bills to pay, and we don't want to file bankruptcy. We want to liquidate pay the bills. This will help."

The decision to close Compass Pointe came after an emergency meeting of its board members earlier this month. Rowley said the closing was due to several factors, including back debt and large, one-time expenses, like a recent roof repair. However, she said a change in state funding seemed to be the largest factor.

"There was a state block grant that we received from the Iowa Department of Public Health," Rowley said. "Instead of being just money given every month, it was money given on a reimbursement cycle. That started in January, and we just didn't have deep enough pockets to be able to carry that weight."

In addition to strain from the new grant model, Rowley said delayed payments from Managed Care Organizations and insurance companies played a role. She said initial claims were often rejected, prompting staff to refile in order to be paid. In addition, she confirmed the MCOs and insurance companies are able to pay providers a rate lower than the cost of providing care.

"That's tricky to be able to finance your organization, especially if you're small," Rowley said. "You need deeper pockets, and oftentimes we got that deeper pocket through the grants."

Lastly, she said Mother Nature played a part in Compass Pointe's closure as well. Severe winter storms caused many clients to cancel or reschedule, according to Rowley, further straining the state grant's reimbursement model.

Supervisor Kim Wermersen expressed his concern regarding the county's fourth quarter payment to Compass Pointe, given the abrupt manner in which the nine-county region was informed of the closing. He said, while he was in favor of honoring commitments, he was hesitant to approve the county's fourth-quarter payment while the center is liquidating its assets. The matter was initially tabled last week, but Rowley returned Tuesday with numbers showing Compass Pointe Prevention Director Mary Sloan had spent $18,265 on prevention services in Dickinson County as of March 31 $1,022 more than the county's annual contribution. Rowley explained the prevention services aren't necessarily provided at the same intervals as the county payments.

"They're not provided per quarter," Rowley said. "They provide them in a continuum because a lot of those programs are school-based."

Rowley went on to say some of the nine counties formerly served by Compass Pointe have already agreed to pay their fourth quarter commitments, and a handful are still discussing the matter. Rowley said Compass Pointe is also looking to either sell or rent office space it owns in the Gateway North complex in Spencer. Depending on whether the space is sold or rented, Compass Pointe may continue to owe money on a major roof repair, according to Rowley. As of Tuesday, she said Compass Pointe had approximately $55,000 in its bank account, and a handful of employees are referring clients and contacting state agencies a difficult task without a director, Rowley noted. She said 17 former employees have applied for unemployment benefits, and the organization still owes accrued vacation costs.

Wermersen continued to find the payment difficult, as the center is no longer providing treatment.

"I still struggle with the fact that we were left high and dry very quickly," Wermersen said. "I like the idea of paying them for April, and not the last two thirds of that that's just me because we have transition things that we have to look at while this is all going on in expenses. It's a tough place to be. I get it, but I'm not happy about it in the least."

Supervisor Steve Clark was of a similar mind to Wermersen caught between whether to honor the commitment in full or in part. Supervisor Tim Fairchild, on the other hand, agreed with Rowley's point of view.

"My understanding is that the work has been done," Fairchild said. "This is work that someone did, and they're caught up in a ridiculous, goofy scheme, but they still did the work. I'd pay my bills."

With that, Fairchild motioned for the county to pay $4,310.75 for the final quarter. The motion was seconded and passed by the board, with Wermersen casting the only negative vote.

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