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Kane board members skeptical of call for countywide mental health board

GENEVA – Kane County Board members agree that the distribution of mental health services in the county needs to be improved.

But County Board members differ over what should be done to improve that situation.

Tuesday, the County Board received a report from its Mental Health Advisory Committee. The committee was established about two years ago in response to a change in state law requiring the county to evaluate ways to improve the disbursement of treatment opportunities for mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.

In the past 15 months, the committee has conducted surveys and public forums, and compiled those results into recommendations to the County Board.

William Beith, assistant Gilberts village administrator and mental health committee member, laid out the three recommendations, which included creating a central webpage to list “relevant treatment options” in Kane County.

The committee further asked the county to support the concept of establishing a single, countywide board, called a “708 board,” to distribute funds for mental health services.

Currently, only portions of the county are served by township- or city-based 708 boards, which were established by voters through local referendums. Seven southern Kane townships, including Aurora, Sugar Grove, Kaneville and Blackberry, are included in the INC 708 Board, while the cities of St. Charles and Geneva each operate their own 708 boards.

No 708 boards have been established in the northern portions of the county.

Beith said establishing a countywide board would “equalize services” in the county and reduce costs by more widely spreading the tax burden and steering those who otherwise would be locked up in jail to other treatment options.

Several County Board members and Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, however, appeared skeptical of establishing a countywide 708 board.

Board members noted state lawmakers would need to change state law to permit Kane County to establish such a board. And they also noted rancor within the mental health advisory committee, as several members of the panel resigned during the committee’s run, including one as recently as last week.

The County Board also heard from Jerry Murphy, executive director of the INC Board, who said the committee was not in agreement over the need for a countywide 708 board.

He said the mental health committee was weighted heavily toward those who live in portions of the county not served by 708 boards and did not consider seriously enough concerns of those living in townships and cities served by 708 boards now.

“The remedy is contained within the Mental Health Act, with no revisions necessary,” Murphy said. “The townships could establish 708 boards themselves.”

Note to readers - the online version of this story has been edited to correct an error.

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