Voters in four suburban counties made a strong statement Tuesday about the importance of mental health treatment.
In referendums this fall, voters approved tax increases allowing the creation of community mental health boards — also known as 708 boards — that succeeded in the towns of Addison, Lysle, Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheeling and Vernon, as well as Will County.
Only in Winfield Township does the “no” vote seem to have prevailed – and 708 board supporters hope that the votes remaining to be counted will push that vote to the top, too.
Designated councils, which are already in suburban towns including Bloomingdale, Dundee and Hanover, will allocate tax dollars to local agencies that help people with mental health issues, developmental disabilities or substance use disorders.
In the town of Wheeling, voters supported the proposal – expected to cost the typical homeowner about $32 a year – despite organized opposition that received funding from billionaire mega-billionaire Richard Oehlen of Lake Forest.
“Voters understand the dire need we have for more mental health care in this case,” supporter Arlene Gould said on Wednesday. “And they reject the argument that $32 a year is too much to pay to improve mental health care in our local communities.”
Naperville resident Lisa Rose, a community activist who worked on behalf of the proposals in the towns of Lisle and Naperville, said the issue resonated with voters.
“When we were collecting petition signatures, we heard a lot of stories from people, stories in their own lives. I have a neighbor down the street who had a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities and (heard) how hard it is to fight for it and she told her to get services.”
“I didn’t have to convince them,” Rose added. “People have known this has been a problem for a while.”
Michael Murray, of Bloomingdale Township Mental Health Auxiliary, said the findings show these issues affect everyone. “It also shows that our community has a heart for the needy in our communities,” he said. “I call it the heart of change.”
Once people see the results the 708 board can produce, Murray said, they will want it for their communities.
Mrs. Joan Johnson, Buffalo Grove Village Trustee, Defender of Vernon Township’s 708 Board of Directors, sees a high on the horizon.
“I think the passage of mental health referendums shows that voters understand that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis,” she said.
Vernon Township 708 board will be Lake County’s first. As it passes, besides that of Wheeling Township, both parts of Cook County and Lake will be served in Buffalo Grove.
“Hopefully we’ll see a domino effect, as other towns now put this on the ballot and we can have community mind boards all over Lake County,” Johnson said.