Transition period for Center Associates in Tama County

The first two weeks of a transition period in which Center Associates of Marshalltown assumed responsibility for providing mental health services to Tama County residents has gone according to plan, according to Mike Bergman, Center Associates CEO, and Bev Worden, Center Associates Business Manager.

Center Associates took control of the Mental Health Center of Tama County operations and clinic facility at 1309 S. Broadway in Toledo, Aug. 1, Bergman said.

The Mental Health Center had ceased operations at the close of business July 31, after its board of directors voted unanimously July 30, to turn over operations to Center Associates.

Center Associates provided services on an emergency basis the first week of the transition and began seeing clients Wednesday, Worden said.

Professional staff serving county residents are JoAnn Arguello, Sarah Beattie, Nick Calzada, Erin Gumm, Angie Krier and Roy Metzger.

Support staff retained from the Mental Health Center are Abby Thompson and Sherrie Zimmerman.

The clinic serves about 500 consumers annually.

Ongoing financial struggles, the turnover of five clinic operations directors in approximately 10 years, and the recent departure of psychiatrist Laura VanCleve, DO, were cited by the board of directors as reasons for the change.

Bergman said regulatory requirements and a movement to electronic medical record keeping, among other issues, had made it difficult for small clinics, such as the Mental Health Center, to survive.

Bergman who, with others, had served as a consultant to the Mental Health Center when it was experiencing difficulties, and Center Associates reputation for effectively providing mental health services over a period of many years contributed to the board’s decision.

The vote was 7-0, with one member absent due to a vacation.

“We’ve been talking to Mike (Bergman) for about a year,” said Berleen Wobeter, board chairman.

Bergman said that Center Associates had not been looking to expand, but was approached by the Mental Health Center board who were looking outward to partner with another entity.

“After a deliberate process, we agreed to partner with them,” Bergman said. “We weren’t really looking to do that … it has been quite a bit of work for our organization.”

Bergman said Tama County residents and a multi-county group have aided in the transition process.

“I will say that the Tama County people, and County Social Services, a 20-county organization, have been helpful in facilitating our ability to make the transition work,” Bergman said. “We hope patients won’t sense much difference … but they will have to sign up for our services, because they are our patients.”

Worden cited Thompson and Zimmerman.

“We have great office staff there, they know the clients and are eager to learn,” Worden said.

Center Associates will assume a Farmers Home Rural Development mortgage of $99,000 on the clinic building, Bergman said.

Center Associates, at 9 Fourth Ave. in Marshalltown, has been providing mental health services to residents of Hardin and Marshall continues since 1958.

They are accredited by the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities with the Iowa Department of Human Services.

John Speer of the Tama-Toledo News contributed to this report.