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Public hearing to explore mental health priorities in face of continued cuts in funding

The Mental Health Board (MHB) invites individuals from the community to voice their opinions and concerns regarding needs of individuals who have a mental illness, developmental disability, traumatic brain injury, and/or are dealing with substance abuse issues at the annual public hearing on Monday, May 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. at 620 Dakota Street in Crystal Lake.

This year, the MHB also invites the community to tour the recently expanded facility and meet board and staff members from 3 to 6 p.m. This facility includes the Community Resource Center (CRC), which provides rent-free office and meeting space for several small, parent and consumer run organizations, including NAMI McHenry County, Families Empowered to Change, and McHenry County McCAP.

A fair in the CRC will offer information about mental health services available in the county.

With predictions of continuation of the already massive cuts in funding for behavioral health services, the MHB is exploring creative outreach and education to find new ways to support efficient and cost effective access to services necessary for recovery.

“The voices of McHenry County residents and providers are an important part of the three year and annual planning processes,” said Sandy Lewis, the executive director of MHB. “The public hearing offers an opportunity for residents of McHenry County to respond to the newly released three-year plan and next year’s funding priorities.”

Lewis explained that continued budget cuts for behavioral health services and delayed state payments compel the Mental Health Board to consider steps to ensure a safety net of services for those who are in crisis and need essential community based services.

She further noted that the local tax dollars available through the Mental Health Board are not sufficient to replace the lost state and federal dollars, and that the Board’s direction on prioritizing critical access services for our community will be difficult.

“Everyone is being challenged with doing more with less, and this extends to behavioral health services as well,” she said. The Mental Health Board has been encouraging providers to collaborate to avoid duplication of services and to prioritize individuals who are most at risk.

“Failure to have access to critical services will result in increased crisis situations, and more individuals who are homeless or incarcerated, Lewis continued.

“More than ever, we need to listen to the perspectives of our stakeholders, which include people who need services and their advocates, local, state, and federal funders of services, and providers of services,” she said.

Community residents are encouraged to add to the assessment of behavioral health needs by participating in tabletop discussions during the public hearing.

Sign language and Spanish interpreters will be available; childcare will be provided in the family room of the Community Resource Building.

The public is also invited to submit written commentary in advance or at the meeting by mailing to MHB, 620 Dakota Street, emailing to biehl@mc708.org, or faxing to 815-455-2925. For further information, contact the Mental Health Board at 815-455-2828.

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