Morrison, Cerniglia discuss need to expand Cook County mental health services
Democratic 15th District Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison of Mount Prospect and Republican challenger Chuck Cerniglia of Hoffman Estates shared their views on the need for expanded mental health services from the county -- partly in response to acts of violence like the July 4 parade shooting in Highland Park in which seven people were killed
In an interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board, the two hopefuls addressed the role the county can play on mental health after disagreeing over whether it's appropriate to own an AR-15-type rifle.
Morrison said public availability of military-grade weapons designed to kill people is wrong.
Cerniglia described them as sport weapons whose responsible owners are now threatened with a loss of their rights due to what he calls a mental health issue and a failure by state police to revoke the Highland Park suspect's right to own a firearm.
"I think you do need to have mental health services for the county, but it all starts in the home, too," Cerniglia said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental health -- including kids' masking in school -- also contributed to the need for more mental health services, he said.
"But law enforcement can only do so much," Cerniglia added. "You've got to look at track records of people, and in this particular case, if I'm not mistaken, I think police were called to that home two or three times for domestic situations that were going on. And it just wasn't followed up upon."
Morrison said his advocacy for greater mental health resources saw results during his first term.
"I have been a supporter of expanding mental health resources since I launched my campaign in 2018," he said. "We don't do nearly enough anywhere in this country when it comes to ensuring that mental and behavioral health resources are easily accessible."
Morrison said that in January he created the effort that led to the first Cook County department of mental and behavioral health, which just hired its first department head to lead the next steps over the coming months.
"I'm very excited about the work that's going on," Morrison said. "Over the next few years, once fully operational, the goal is to fill every single gap that exists in the mental and behavioral health space countywide.
"If we can get that accomplished, we'll be the first county in the nation to do so."
Cook County's 15th District goes into Schaumburg, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, South Barrington, Palatine, Des Plaines and Elgin.