Efforts to create mental health boards in Wheeling, Schaumburg townships move forward

Proponents of a referendum to create a community mental health panel known as a 708 board in Wheeling Township submitted signatures Wednesday to get the question on the November ballot,

Meanwhile, supporters of a similar effort in Schaumburg Township said they will be submitting their signatures Thursday morning at township headquarters.

Geri Wasserman, one of the leaders of the Schaumburg Township initiative, said volunteers have gathered 1,432 signatures. They need 800 valid signatures to get the measure placed on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Wheeling Township group arrived at the township offices Wednesday morning with 264 petition sheets containing 2,356 signatures. They need 1,100 valid signatures.

The ballot question will ask voters if they would favor Wheeling Township increasing property taxes not more than 0.15% of a property's assessed value. Proponents said that would raise about $1.5 million a year.

If approved, the township supervisor would then appoint the board to oversee the use of that money to fund services for those with mental health needs, substance use disorder or intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Hugh Brady, board president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Illinois and one of those present at the township offices Wednesday, said the 708 board would provide grants to agencies such as the AMITA/Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health in Arlington Heights.

"We figure if we raised $1.5 million, that would provide some significant (benefit)," he said. "Because right now, the AMITA/Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health has 90 people on their waiting list for services."

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities on a Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services list after they turn 22 often have to wait five or six years to get services from the state, Brady said. A 708 board could provide a grant to agencies providing those services.

There are currently 98 mental health boards or committees in Illinois, including Hanover Township.

"Where it becomes very important and can play a very key role is, the state has a long history of not honoring its commitment to social services," Hanover Township Supervisor Brian McGuire said. "As soon as we get to a budget crisis, we see that (with) these agencies, funding gets delayed or even cut. Yet the need still goes on when it comes to mental health."

McGuire said the Hanover Township mental health board, which was created in 1977, funds more than 30 agencies.

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