Elgin Township pushes reset button, dumps mental health board

The Elgin Township Mental Health Board is no more, undoing the last remnant of a community effort in March 2020 to enhance funding for local residents in need of social services.

Township trustees voted Monday night to dissolve the board in a 5-0 vote. Supervisor Ken Bruderle repeatedly told an audience opposed to that decision that he and the township trustees want a "strong" mental health board. However, a decision by the Kane County clerk to not collect the tax that would fund the mental health board because of questionable legal wording in the referendum, makes it easier to just start over and try to pass a clean referendum.

"Did (voters) even know what they were voting for?" Bruderle asked. "Why even argue with that? If we put it back on the ballot, it passed with so much of a percentage the first time, why wouldn't it pass a second time?"

The leaders of several social service providers, which would benefit from this new funding stream, urged the board not to dissolve the board. They told Bruderle the existing mental health board could apply for grants and federal funds available through the American Recovery Act to do its work while a lawsuit over the county clerk's decision works its way through the court system.

Lore Baker, the president of the Association for Individual Development, told trustees there is a waiting list of Elgin-area residents that is more than 80 people deep awaiting mental health, addiction and developmental disability services.

"These are our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones, our peers that need our support," Baker said.

But trustees agreed with the idea that it is too legally messy to continue the board in its current form while there are questions about whether or not anything was done according to state statute. The majority of trustees on the township board were just elected in a spring election that saw a Democratic majority ushered off the board and replaced by an all-Republican board and supervisor.

"It seems like it would be the path of least resistance to do it right, legally and strong," Bruderle said. "This is just step one in re-creating it the right way."

The next time voters may have a chance at re-creating the mental health board and tax is June 2022.

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