Advisory committee pushes consolidation of mental health services in Kane County

 
 
Updated 8/23/2018 6:17 PM

In an effort to consolidate government and provide better treatment options, members of Kane County's Mental Health Advisory Committee want to create a new countywide tax.

But Geneva and St. Charles officials expressed doubts this week because the plan would double tax their residents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The consolidation aspect would come from combining existing 708 mental health boards in Aurora, Batavia, Big Rock, Blackberry, Kaneville, Sugar Grove and Virgil townships into a single board with a representative from each area. Residents of each of the townships pay a tax dedicated to funding mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities services. Tax revenue generated by the townships was about $1.8 million in the 2016 levy.

Burlington, Dundee, Elgin, Campton, Plato, Geneva, Hampshire, Rutland and St. Charles townships have neither a 708 board nor a dedicated tax. Each would have a representative on the countywide 708 board. Each of the townships would pay a tax to fund and access services. Adding the new tax revenue from the residents of those communities would boost the pool of 708 funds to about $4.1 million.

The advisory board's William Beith said the loss of state funding fueled a massive evaporation of treatment options and facilities for people with mental health needs. Many of the people end up in the county jail, which is one of the most expensive and least effective ways to provide help, he said.

"It's also why you're seeing so many homeless people now," Beith said. "We're not saying the 708 township boards are bad; we're saying the world has changed. We want to move to a countywide structure that will better leverage resources more efficiently, effectively and economically."

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Carolyn Waibel isn't convinced Beith's vision would improve what St. Charles has in place. She's on the city's self-funded 708 board. The board allocated $558,000 this year for mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities services to 3,600 residents (about 10 percent of the city's population). St. Charles opposes the plan and hasn't been included in the discussions. And there is a general concern about St. Charles residents' being forced to pay a second tax for 708 services.

Beith said the answer to that problem is easy: St. Charles can get rid of its 708 board and take advantage of the countywide plan, or it can keep its local board if residents are willing to pay it. He equated it to how a municipality may charge a local sales tax on top of the state sales tax.

Geneva residents are in the same situation.

County board member Phil Lewis represents parts of both St. Charles and Geneva. His wife, Maureen, is a St. Charles alderman. He blasted Beith's committee for presenting what he believed was a fatally flawed vision because it didn't factor in the services Geneva and St. Charles provide.

"You're using data to project a conclusion," he said. "It leads the reader to an inaccurate assessment. I think it's deliberate."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Beith explained just about all of the data about existing services came from the local INC Board, which uses the money collected by the township 708 boards to allocate grants to local providers.

Questions county board members asked Jerry Murphy, the executive director of the INC Board, showed the INC Board may have a self-interest in not seeing a countywide plan move forward.

Murphy agreed there are some "distortions" in the numbers because they don't include what Geneva and St. Charles provide. He also indicated the townships that fund the INC Board like the current setup. Murphy confirmed there is $316,000 worth of administrative costs the INC Board takes from the taxes collected. That money pays salaries and for the care of $4.2 million worth of buildings the INC Board also bought with the funds collected. The three buildings house the INC offices and several providers of the services the INC Board gives funding to, such as the Association for Individual Development and the Gateway Foundation.

County board members said they need more information before they can decide whether to support a countywide referendum. Beith said the push is not for the election in November but in 2019.

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