ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago County voters will have the chance to make the decision whether or not to add the new sales tax at the polls on March 17th.

In 2018, there were 235 mental illness related deaths in Winnebago County alone.

Several organizations met Wednesday in Rockford to discuss why they think the community should vote “yes.”

The tax would be equivalent to one penny per two dollars spent. Advocates say it’s a small cost to pay for what could be a life-or-death issue.

“This is something that they can really make an impact in our community and make things better,” said Shelton Kay, the V.P. of Community Relations at Crusader Community Health.

Official estimate the proposed tax could raise as much as $13 million a year for various mental health services.

The cause is a personal one for Xavier Whitford, the executive director at the Tommy Corral Memorial Foundation.

“I actually lost my 19-year-old son, Tommy, to suicide five years ago, and so I know first hand the negative impact not having good quality mental health services can have, and that’s losing your life to suicide,” Whitford explained.

Whitford believes that if given the proper resources, many people’s lives could have been saved.

“The biggest frustration for me has been, I see all these studies done where they say that we’re at a critical point for mental health care, we’ve got gaps here and there, but there’s no money to help change that, and now this gives us a chance to do that,” she said.

Thursday night, Winnebago County board members will appoint the first seven members of the mental health board. The board will operate regardless of the vote result.


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