'A heart for change': Advocates celebrate voter endorsement of mental health councils

‘A heart for change’: Advocates celebrate voter endorsement of mental health councils

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

In referenda this fall, voters approved tax increases that will enable the creation of successful Community Mental Health Councils – also known as 708 councils – in the townships of Addison, Lisle, Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheeling and Vernon, as well as Will County.

Only in Winfield Township did the no appear to win – and 708 board supporters are hoping the remaining votes to be counted will push this one over the top as well.

Appointed councils, which already exist in suburban townships including Bloomingdale’s, Dundee and Hanover, would allocate taxpayers’ money to local agencies that help people living with mental health issues, developmental or developmental disabilities. drug addiction.

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

“Voters understand the desperate need we have for more mental health care in this state,” supporter Arlen Gould said Wednesday. “And they reject the argument that $32 a year is too expensive 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 resonated with voters.

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

“I didn’t have to convince them,” Rose added. “People know that’s been a problem for a while.”

Michael Murray, of the Bloomingdale Township Mental Health Auxiliary, said the results show these issues affect everyone. “And it also shows that our community has a heart for people in need in our communities,” he said. “I call it a heart for change.”

Murray said once people see the results a 708 tip can produce, they’ll want it for their communities.

Buffalo Grove Village Trustee Joanne Johnson, advocate for Vernon Township Council 708, also sees a tidal wave looming on the horizon.

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

The Vernon Township 708 map will be Lake County’s first. With its passage, as well as that of Wheeling Township, portions of Buffalo Grove’s Cook and Lake Counties will be served.

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

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