Bloomingdale Township Mental Health Board trying to solve funding problems

Members of the new Bloomingdale Township Mental Health Board already are facing their first big challenge: no money.

The seven-person panel, which was formed after a successful April referendum question, is looking to evaluate the availability and quality of services for township residents with mental illness, addiction and developmental disabilities.

That "needs assessment" will help the board develop a plan to improve existing services, create new ones and help agencies that provide detection, early diagnosis, education, assistance and treatment programs.

But the board won't adopt its first property tax levy until the fall, and it won't receive any tax dollars until next June.

The bottom line: It can't pay for any expenses, including the needs assessment.

"I don't think we can spend money until we have money," board member Ed Levato said during the panel's inaugural meeting Wednesday night.

"Then we can't do a needs assessment, Ed," board member Diana Eckert said in response. She estimates the study would cost $30,000 to $40,000 and require hiring a consultant.

Levato said board members, who are unpaid, should do their own research. For example, he said, the DuPage County Health Department probably can tell the board what services are missing.

Eckert agreed the board should meet with representatives from other entities, including police departments, hospitals and schools.

"But I'm not sure we can come up with a proper needs assessment," said Eckert, adding the process should include a community survey. "We have a lot to do in a short amount of time."

She suggested the board seek an advance from Bloomingdale Township.

But Levato, the former township supervisor, said the township isn't a lending institution.

Michael Murray, chairman of the committee that backed the referendum push, said he hopes money is found so work on the needs assessment can begin by September.

"I think the needs assessment is critical," he said.

It's believed the mental health board eventually will need an annual budget of about $2.3 million to $2.5 million to meet the needs of the community. However, the exact figures won't be known until the assessment is completed.

"Everything grows out of the needs assessment," Murray said.

The budget for the board's first full fiscal year won't take effect until April 1, 2018. An interim budget adopted Wednesday has no revenue or expenses.

Work on the mental health board idea started about four years ago. It included a study that the League of Woman Voters Roselle/Bloomingdale completed in 2015.

The referendum question was placed on the April ballot after a successful petition drive organized by a group of residents.

Before the election, township officials mistakenly described the measure as advisory. But Murray said he and other supporters made it clear to residents that a tax increase would be necessary to fund the mental health board.

The panel's goal, according to the 2015 study, is to develop a comprehensive local plan to ensure "preventive and therapeutic programs are accessible for all residents in the community."

Other mental health boards exist in the suburbs, including one in Hanover Township.

Roselle resident Lisa Mlodoch said she's waited a long time for Bloomingdale Township to have a mental health board.

"I think that as the board continues to drill down into what their responsibilities are, they're going to find a gusher of need," she said.

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