McHenry County area mental health providers seek to keep pace with community needs

McHenry County residents will vote on Tuesday, March 19, Illinois Primary Election Day, for or against a question that could help alleviate the funding deficits for 40 mental health providers affiliated with the McHenry Mental Health Board.

Voters will be asked to answer the question: “To pay for mental health purposes, shall McHenry County be authorized to impose an increase on its share of local sales taxes by one-quarter (1/4) percent and discontinue the current property tax levy funding mental health services and the Mental Health Board?”

“This would mean that a consumer would pay an additional twenty-five cents in sales tax for every $100 of tangible personal property bought at retail. This sales tax would take effect on July 1.

“This would remove the $10,975,000 from the property tax levy allocated for the Mental Health Board (MHB) effective Nov. 30,” as posted on the McHenry County website.

The vote to go forward with the referendum was bipartisan with near unanimous approval by the McHenry County Board.

What if the referendum passes?

In summary, the website states that if the referendum passes, the McHenry Mental Health Board’s portion of the property tax levy will be removed from resident’s property tax bill that is due in 2025.

McHenry County anticipates that the first full year’s collection of sales taxes for the Mental Health Board will be between $12 and $13 million. Historically, sales tax collections have grown over time.

The most recent property tax levy (current funding) for the Mental Health Board and affiliated nonprofit agencies was set at $10,975,000.

Passing the referendum means a potential $2 million funding increase distributed by the Mental Health Board based on the needs of 40 mental health service provider agencies serving McHenry County.

There will be a forum on the Mental Health Board referendum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, in the Luecht Auditorium, building 8, on the McHenry County College campus, 8900 Northwest Hwy. in Crystal Lake. It is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of McHenry County.

Or participate on Facebook livestream:

What if the referendum fails?

If the referendum fails, the Mental Health Board will continue to receive funding from property taxes as it has in the past.

Why is the funding referendum necessary for mental health providers?

According to a Northwestern Medicine 2023 Community Health Needs Assessment (page 35), “53% of McHenry County residents stated access to behavioral health services as the most important need in the community.”

“We see this at our center,” said Carrie Estrada, executive director of the Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault.

She points out, “People are really frustrated with waitlists and their needs are too immediate to wait months for a counselor. We have many services offered in English and Spanish; unfortunately, there is a significant waitlist due to lack of adequate funding to serve all the needs in the county.

“We support any innovative ideas to bring funding levels consistent to the need in McHenry County residents,” Estrada said.

In March 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that “teen girls are confronting the highest levels of sexual violence, sadness, and hopelessness they have ever reported since the CDC had started acquiring such statistics back in 1991.”

“The ramifications of not addressing trauma from sexual violence in a timely manner cannot be overstated,” Estrada emphasized.

Estrada continued, speaking on behalf of NWCASA: “For example, the referendum funding, if approved, will be used to support an additional trauma counselor in McHenry County with expertise to address debilitating symptoms resulting from sexual violence.

“This role is particularly important because our service agency and others within the state of Illinois have waitlists and survivors are being left without adequate support.”

NWCASA is based in Arlington Heights and operates the CARE Center, a satellite office of NWCASA at 4508 Prime Parkway, McHenry. Visit:

MHB affiliates provide mental health services at no charge to McHenry County residents. For more information, visit

Keeping pace with McHenry County residents’ mental health needs

“A change in this funding will result in organizations being able to somewhat keep pace with the increased demand in services.

“With more than 12 years of no increase in the mental health levy, we have fallen behind what our community needs,” according to Suzanne Hoban, executive director of the Family Health Partnership Clinic, Crystal Lake. Visit

“This is why the board of Family Health Partnership Clinic voted to support the change in the mental health board funding mechanism.”

“Not only has mental health funding been flat for many years, but now we are faced with a mental health crisis,” Hoban points out. “39.7% of survey respondents (Northwestern Medicine 2023 Community Health Needs Assessment, page 35) report feeling nervous, anxious or on edge every month.”

“And the mental health crisis amongst youth is getting worse each year,” said Abbey Nicholas, executive director, of National Alliance on Mental Illness-McHenry County, Crystal Lake.

Nicholas explained, “Additional funding would allow organizations to provide more services and shorten the waitlists. It will not solve the crisis, but it will help a lot of people in McHenry County.”

The NAMI McHenry County Board of Directors voted to support the referendum because we must do something to alleviate the crisis.” Visit

About the McHenry County Mental Health Board

The McHenry County Mental Health Board was created by voter referendum in 1967 to fund local agencies that treat and educate county residents affected by mental illness, developmental disability, and substance abuse, and to help other populations in need of behavioral health care.

Learn more about the board and its mission by visiting Mental health boards are often called “708 Boards” on account of the Illinois House of Representatives bill number that allowed their creation.

What to know about voting in the March 19 primary

Early voting for the Tuesday, March 19 primary began Feb. 8, and the application period is open for voters to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot; they can do so by visiting, or by visiting the county clerk’s office at the county administration building, Room 107, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.

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