On Sunday, September 19, 2021, ACE welcomed Geri Kerger, Executive Director of DuPage National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Lisa Devivo, Executive Director of the Community Mental Health Board (708 Board) from Oak Park Township. ACE members learned about the effort of mental health activists to get a referendum on the ballot in November 2022 – for Lisle Township and for Naperville Township – to establish a Mental Health Board (aka 708 Board) in each.
Do we need a Mental Health Board (708 Board) in our township?
In 1963 Congress passed the Community Mental Health Act, a major goal being to allow those with mental illness to be treated in their homes and remain in their community rather than in large institutions. However, Congress did not completely fund this plan.
In response, Illinois enacted House Rule 708 allowing communities to seek funding for local mental health programs via referendum in their communities.
Once passed and established, each local 708 Board selects and issues grants to local agencies and organizations that provide (1) mental health services, (2) substance abuse services, and (3) developmental disability services. These are the three targets for Mental Health Board/708 Board funds.
What needs do our communities have? Consider the following.
- Each year mental health issues affect about 1 in 4 adults. About 50% of people will experience mental illness in their lifetime.
- One in six children have a developmental disability.
- One in ten youth (12-18 years old) have used an illicit drug in the past month.
- One in four young adults (18-24 years old) have struggled with suicidal thoughts since Covid-19 hit.
- One in eight ER visits is related to mental illness or substance abuse disorder. For some, the ER is their only source of mental health care.
- It is estimated that up to 35% of first responders have experienced/will experience PTSD from the pandemic.
- In many DuPage communities, mental health and substance abuse calls represent the majority of calls to police. Persons with a mental illness are 16 times more likely to be fatally injured during police intervention.
- Illinois ranks 35th in spending for mental health and 43rd in spending for developmental disabilities.
A visit to the ER is a stop gap. It is ineffective for the long term and too expensive in the short term. People suffering from depression, mental illness, and/or substance abuse disorder need early referral and ongoing services.
What does a 708 Board do? What does it not do?
A 708 Board is not a service provider. Their key functions are evaluating, strategizing, planning and funding for the good of the entire local community.
Board members are not elected; they are appointed from the local community. Boards publish their annual reports on goals set and met, grant money distributed, and strategizing for the next year. In addition, some boards award grants in public meetings, thus maintaining full transparency.
If the referendum passes, how will the 708 Board (Mental Health Board) in our community be funded?
Maximum tax is 0.15%, but it can be less. In Bloomingdale Township (population 111,000), the levy was 0.0214%.
- In 2020, the Bloomingdale 708 Board awarded 20 grants amounting to $823,482.
The board can also be funded by gifts and grants from private sources or a combination of these plus property tax dollars.
In Hanover Park, the cost to the average homeowner was between $25 – $50 per year. This is affordable and provides needed services to the community.
Help Geri Kerger get this referendum on the ballot in November 2022. Geri offers a full presentation to faith-based and civic groups in the DuPage area. You can find her at https://namidupage.org/about/staff/.