Wheeling Township mental health board takes first steps
Four months after voters approved it by referendum, Wheeling Township's community mental health board met Wednesday for the first time.
The board was created to provide funding through a new tax for local social service agencies that address mental illness, substance use disorder and developmental disabilities.
A crowd of more than 35 people attended the panel's first session, including several mental health advocates, as well as a township official who warned about excessive spending.
"Please avoid duplication (of services) and, secondly, don't tax the max," said Wheeling Township Assessor Ken Jochum.
Although proponents have said the board would collect about $1.5 million a year in taxes, Jochum suggested it could seek as much as $8.5 million annually.
Among the other speakers to address the panel Wednesday was Hugh Brady, a board member with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Illinois. He called attention to the need for mental health services in the area, noting that about 1% of the adult population lives with schizophrenia.
"Only 17% of people with substance use disorder who want treatment can get it, so mental health boards fill in those gaps," added Laura Fry, executive director of Live4Lali in Arlington Heights. The organization provides for those with substance use disorder.
Arlen Gould, one of the November referendum's leading proponents, applauded the board members for serving.
"You can make an enormous contribution to our community. You're going to save lives," he said, adding it will cost township taxpayers on average about $28 a year per household to raise roughly $1.5 million.
Among the board's first official acts was electing its officers: Wheeling Township Trustee Jeanne Hamilton as president; Susan Hayes, a nurse at Rockford Pediatric Pulmonology, as vice president; and former Arlington Heights Village Manager Bill Dixon as secretary.
Its next meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 19 at the township office in Arlington Heights.