Will County referendum will ask voters for tax to fund mental health programs


In a get together-line vote, the Will County Board permitted Thursday placing a referendum proposal on the November ballot to check with voters to generate a group mental health board and levy a tax of .05% of a property’s equalized assessed value to fund solutions for psychological overall health, developmental disabilities and material abuse problems.

A few townships have talked over producing a mental health and fitness board, and some county board associates claimed they felt this ought to be a countywide initiative. Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, a Democrat from Naperville, stated a constituent experienced approached her asking why Will County does not have a mental health board.

Far more mental well being expert services are required, claimed board member Rachel Ventura, the chair of the county board’s community wellbeing and safety committee. With an boost in opioid overdoses, mass shootings, gun violence and teen suicide, now is a great time to develop the mental health and fitness board and devote more money in mental health and fitness solutions, mentioned Ventura, a Democrat from Joliet.

“This is one thing our culture requires,” she stated.

To create a group psychological wellness board, which is also regarded as a 708 Board, the county requires voter approval.

By point out statue, the utmost levy cannot exceed .15% of the equalized assessed price to provide local community psychological health facilities and services and expert services for men and women with a developmental disability or a material abuse ailment.

Right after discussion, the Will County Board in a bipartisan vote agreed that their referendum proposal would seek out a maximum of .05% of the equalized assessed value.

On the other hand, when it arrived down to no matter if to place the referendum on the ballot, the vote went along get together strains. The referendum was supported by the Democrats on the board and opposed by the Republican users.

County Coroner Laurie Summers claimed she supported the creation of the mental well being board, citing the surge in overdose deaths which incorporates a lot of residents in their 30s and 40s.

“We have to uncover a greater way to be ready to address these men and women,” Summers explained. “I can inform you that just about every one case … it was an underlying psychological well being situation. If we don’t deal with the mental wellbeing, we are not heading to deal with the addiction.”

Susan Olenek, executive director for the Will County Wellness Division, claimed they have made available psychological health and actions wellness services since the 1950s and obtain a levy from the county to complete all of its companies.

“No question there’s a want for additional products and services, but you presently have a well being division that provides these products and services, you have a group well being middle that delivers these providers,” Olenek mentioned.

Olenek stated those services contain psychology for kids, adolescents and older people, outpatient treatment, crisis response and material abuse systems. The wellbeing section normally takes private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare and sufferers with no insurance coverage, Olenek said.

She reported it can make a lot more feeling to fund a plan presently in put and was involved about how considerably income the health and fitness office would receive if an additional county entity competes for products and services.

Ventura reported the psychological health board would not deliver duplicate expert services, but tackle gaps in solutions.

A levy of .05% for every equalized assessed benefit would develop a tax of $50 on a residence that is really worth about $300,000, county officers stated. The levy that is eventually authorized could be reduced than .05%.

Ventura mentioned this would make it possible for psychological health and fitness solutions to get a specified funding resource and stabilize systems that are now beholden on point out and federal grants.

The county board also needs to commit some of its money from the American Rescue Prepare Act, which is built to go the state out of the COVID-19 pandemic in psychological overall health expert services. However, Ventura mentioned that is a one particular-time infusion of funds.

“At the finish of the day, that funding goes absent,” she claimed.

Board member Jackie Traynere, a Democrat from Bolingbrook, agreed.

“Mental well being is not a little something you correct like paving a highway,” Traynere mentioned. “It normally takes a lengthy time.”

Proponents for the referendum reported it gives taxpayers a direct capacity to make your mind up how their taxes are invested.

“There are above 700,000 citizens in Will County, which is a a lot bigger body than we are,” Herb Brooks, a Democrat from Joliet, stated. “I think the electrical power is in the persons. Ship it to a referendum … and they vote indeed or no.”

Quite a few Republicans on the county board mentioned they did not want to check with voters for additional taxes.

“I’ve committed to my constituents that I will oppose any new taxes,” stated Frankie Pretzel, a Republican from New Lenox. “I scratch my head in disbelief that all of you are willing to go to your constituents at this time with a new tax or a proposal for a new tax.”

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Pretzel mentioned the county board desires a lot more mental wellness initiatives, but it demands to function inside of its implies relatively than inquiring taxpayers for more income.

Board member Raquel Mitchell, a Republican from Bolingbrook, claimed board users who oppose placing the referendum on the ballot nevertheless treatment about mental health and fitness, drug habit and an maximize in suicides. Mitchell said psychological overall health topics are vital.

“We would like to give cash to those things previously in place and not levy a complete new tax for it,” Mitchell explained. “It’s bad ample if we elevate the tax. Now we are adding a tax. This is like a slap in the encounter to taxpayers.”

The county board’s public wellbeing and safety committee a short while ago listened to from supporters of creating a mental health board. The League of Women Voters of Illinois said they believe that neighborhood tax funds for mental overall health expert services will be progressively important.

According to the Affiliation of Community Psychological Health and fitness Authorities of Illinois, there are mental wellbeing boards in counties during the state, but there are none in Chicago’s collar counties, such as Lake, Kane, DuPage, Cook, Will or Grundy. Some of the townships and towns inside of the collar counties do have mental well being boards.

If Will County voters approve the development of the psychological health board in November, the customers would appear from the community and be appointed by the county government with the approval of the county board. They will not be paid for their services.

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter.


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