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County to use more aid funds

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | FEBRUARY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Johnson County has once again been called upon to provide aid to families in need.

The county’s Focus on Youth Fund program has experienced an influx of families since July, and it is set to receive $7,000 in additional funds from the state.

The fund is geared toward families with children who have behavioral or emotional disturbances such as ADHD or depression. It provides money to pay for medication, counseling, medical screenings, and other such needs.

“We’re really trying to catch some families that perhaps have insurance for their children but have really high deductibles or copays,” said Lynette Jacoby, the Johnson County Social Services director. “Without this fund, they might not be able to get the services that they need for their children.”

The fund has traditionally had a budget of $30,000, of which $20,000 comes from the county and $10,000 comes from the Iowa Department of Human Services through the local de-categorization board. The de-categorization board administers state funds in an attempt to avoid placing children in foster or institutional care.

Jacoby said that the fund has served 28 kids in the past six months.

“The [number of kids] that we’re seeing this year are more in line with what we had been seeing in previous years with the exception of last year,” she said. “Last year, we had a real dip in services and a dip in the number of individuals served.”

Last fiscal year, beginning in July, the Iowa City School District received a federal grant called “Safe Schools, Healthy Students” that families used in place of Focus on Youth. That year, the fund spent $15,500 of its allotted $30,000.

However, when the grant expired many families returned to the county for aid. Since July of this fiscal year, the fund has spent $17,000.

Jacoby, who is the local de-categorization coordinator, secured an additional $7,000 from the de-categorization board to compensate for the inflow of families, bringing the total fund budget to $37,000.

“The same amount of funding [as last year] isn’t enough because we have a higher demand for services [this year],” she said.

However, when asked, both Jacoby and An Leonard, a Focus on Youth program assistant, were unable to explain why the fund needs $37,000 this year when it needed only $30,000 in previous years when there were similar amounts of demand and participants.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan indicated that the supervisors would likely approve the funds. He said although the funds come from the state, they still need approval from the supervisors as the money flows through the county.

Denise Rathman, executive director of the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said the Focus on Youth fund is a necessary safety net for families struggling to care for their children.

“Even if they were the best family who wanted to take the best care for their child that they possibly could, they might not be able to do it themselves,” she said. “Sometimes families do need additional support in order to get the treatment that’s appropriate for their children.”


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