Mental Health Board hopes small change, will make a big impact in Winnebago County

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) ─ In March Winnebago County voters will go to the polls to make their pick for presidential nominees. A half cent sales tax proposal will also appear on the ballot. It’s purpose is to supply funding to mental health services.

“This fund will be under local control, will be used for local residents to address our mental health issues and concerns,” said Winnebago County Public Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell.

Thursday night, Winnebago County Board members met to talk about the Mental Health Board and who will be on it. While still in the early stages, Operations and Administrative Committee members approved an amendment that would deepen the pool of potential members.

“The first 7 board members are kind of slotted based on background, profession, orientation, that type of thing,” said County Board Chairman Frank Haney. “Instead of having an appointment from the Medical Society Office of the Medical Society Board, we made a little tweak that would allow us to grab a MD in the community, where we’re blessed to have over 600 medical doctors to choose from”

The goal is to have a board that covers as many areas of expertise as possible.

“This is the group that’s going to be charged with putting a system together and governing and making sure funds are being spent for mental health,” said Dr. Martell.

Those funds will come from grants and a potential half cent sales tax. Residents will vote on that in the upcoming March primary.

Other details are still being worked out too, including who will make financial decisions.

“There’s been, I guess, some confusion on how decisions would be made on how that money would be distributed,” said District 7 Board Member and Operations and Administrative Committee Member Paul Arena. “I think we made clear tonight that it’s ultimately going to be the county board’s decision on who gets the funds and those decisions will be coming from recommendations from the mental health board”

County Board Chairman Frank Haney says creating the best mental health board possible is in everyone’s best interest.

“Our biggest mental health facility in Winnebago County is our jail, because we’re not dealing with the problem further up stream,” said Haney. “That’s unacceptable and it’s also the most expensive way to solve the problem.”

Chairman Haney also says the Mental Health Board will continue its work regardless of the result of the sales tax vote.

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