As a result of the election victories, advocates continue to push for public mental health counseling

Suburban mental health advocates convinced voters in November to create new community boards and a new tax that would fund local organizations that deal with mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.

Now the work is shifting from campaigning to implementation, a task largely in the hands of municipal officials, who will appoint the members of the boards and exercise considerable control over their portfolios.

Community Mental Health Councils – also known as 708 Councils – will be established in the cities of Addison, Lisle, Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheeling and Vernon, as well as in Will County.

Advocates who helped put the demands on the ballot are now calling on elected municipal leaders to implement them by appointing 708 board members — the deadline is 60 days from the certification of election results — and levying the tax needed to fund their work.

Wheeling City Manager Cathy Penner said Board 708 there is expected to be appointed in January. The municipality, she said, is already receiving applications from people interested in serving on the seven-member panel.

Advocates are closely monitoring the municipality’s progress, fearing that some resistance to the concept remains.

“Our group wants, as I’m sure the city wants, to be in the best possible position to take advantage of the new board and all the new opportunities,” said Laurie Grainaway, who campaigned for board 708. “We’ve talked many times for everything the city has done to show you’re in the business of helping people, and to that end we’d like to offer our help as well.”

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

She said one of the group’s goals is to help ensure the best selection of candidates for the 708 board.

“We’ve had the benefit this past year of meeting with other newly formed 708 boards. They’ve given us the application process,” she said.

Also encouraging Wheeling Township leaders at a recent township council meeting were representatives from the Christian Church of Arlington Heights.

“We’ve seen people in our community who clearly needed mental health support but weren’t able to get it until it reached a crisis level that affected not only that person, but the congregation and the neighborhood,” said Pastor Ali Lundblad.

“My hope for this board is that you will appoint people who can look at these gaps really closely and think about ways to get people’s support before it becomes a crisis.”

In Vernon Township, Supervisor Jonathan Altenberg said officials have conducted a first round of reviewing applications from potential board members and follow-up interviews are underway.

Lisle Township has an application form for the new council on its website, www.lisletownship.com.

“I’ve had a lot of interest, so I’m very excited about it,” said supervisor Diane Hewitt.

Once the council is established, the municipality will assess which services need funding.

“We have to figure out where the holes are and go from there,” she said.

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