Advocates celebrate voters’ approval of mental health boards

Voters in four suburban counties made a strong statement Tuesday about the importance of mental health treatment.

In referendums this fall, voters approved tax increases allowing for the creation of community mental health boards — also known as 708 boards — passed in Addison, Lisle, Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheeling and Vernon townships, as well as in Will County.

Only in Winfield Township does the “no” vote seem to be overwhelming — and the board’s 708 proponents are hoping the votes left to be counted will outweigh that vote, too.

The appointed boards, which already exist in suburban communities including Bloomingdale, Dundee and Hanover, would allocate tax dollars to local agencies that help people living with mental health problems, developmental disabilities or substance abuse disorders.

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In Wheeling Township, voters supported the proposal — expected to cost the typical homeowner about $32 a year — despite organized opposition that received funding from billionaire megadonor Richard Uichlein of Lake Forest.

“Voters understand the desperate need we have for more mental health care in this state,” Rep. Arlen Gould said Wednesday. “And they reject the argument that $32 a year is too much to pay to improve our mental health care in our local communities.”


Naperville resident Lisa Rose, a community activist who has worked on behalf of the proposals in Lisle and Naperville townships, said the issue is resonating with voters.

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“When we were collecting signatures for a petition, we heard a lot of stories from people, stories from their own lives. I have a neighbor down the street who had a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities and (heard) how hard they had to fight to get her services,” she said.

“I didn’t have to convince them,” added Rose. “People have known this is a problem for some time.

Michael Murray, with the Bloomingdale’s Mental Health Auxiliary, said the results show that these problems affect everyone. “And it also shows that our community has a heart for those in need in our communities,” he said. “I call it the heart for change.”

Murray said once people see the results the 708 board can produce, they will want it for their communities.

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Buffalo Grove Village Trustee Joan Johnson, representing Vernon Township Board 708, also sees encroachment on the horizon.

“I think the passage of the mental health referendum shows that voters recognize that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis,” she said.

Vernon Township sign 708 will be the first in Lake County. Its crossing, along with the one in Wheeling Township, will also serve parts of Cook and Lake counties in Buffalo Grove.

“We’re hoping to see a domino effect where other townships now put this on the ballot and we could have community mental boards spread across Lake County,” Johnson said.


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