Kane County Board to mental health providers: Trust us

Kane County Board members asked the public to trust their government to do the right thing Tuesday as officials earmarked up to $7.4 million of federal American Rescue Plan money for its own expenses.

It comes as local social service providers continued to ask the county to commit a significant portion of the $103 million the county will eventually receive to mental health services. County finance officials have said the county can justify keeping all but about $17 million to recoup lost revenue but the board has not voted on any plan that locks in any spending of the federal funds.

Tuesday's vote allows the county board to use up to $7.4 million in 2021 to recoup possible revenue losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The total is at the top end of the projected losses for the county. However, it does not commit the county to spend any of the $7.4 million on government needs.

But even the possibility of the county spending that sum on its own expenses set off alarm bells among local social service providers. Organizations such as the Association for Individual Development and Easter Seals put out calls to action to their supporters to lobby the county board to spend a significant portion of the federal dollars to address skyrocketing demand for mental health, addiction and developmental disability services. The number of local people on waiting lists for those services has skyrocketed during the pandemic, the providers said.

"The children of Kane County need you," Michael Krupka, a marketing specialist for Easter Sales of DuPage and Fox Valley, told board members before the vote. "There is far too much need out there and far too much demand. Not providing enough funding is the same as providing none at all."

County board member Jarett Sanchez, who is leading the committee overseeing the funds, said no decisions have been made about using the money. Tuesday's vote, he said, just established a fund to carve out $7.4 million for possible use on government expenses.

"It's inaccurate to say that means we are going to take all the money and leave just a small pile for social services," Sanchez said. "I understand maybe people don't necessarily trust government. We're just going to have to prove ourselves through our actions and our decision-making."

Michelle Gumz voted to set aside the $7.4 million, but she was one of several members who said they are listening to the calls to put the federal dollars into the community.

"After we approve this, there's nothing that's going to prevent us from allocating the money to these organizations or businesses or anything else," Gumz said. "Mental health is the top priority, it seems, for all of us. I personally commit myself to spending these funds on mental health."

The county board also voted to seek a consulting firm and project manager to oversee the proper spending of the federal dollars and administer the spending decisions the board ultimately makes. The county received $51.7 million of the funds in May. The rest of the money will come to the county in May 2022.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.