Cuts to social services are coming regardless of what party controls the debate in Illinois or elsewhere, and expect the news of how the effects of those cuts will manifest in our communities to come out in dribs and drabs until we can get a clearer picture.
More news came out this week as the McHenry County Board wisely and unanimously decided to fund two clinician positions for Mental Health Court through Mental Health Board dollars that would have been eliminated when Family Service and Community Mental Health Center closes its doors due to financial collapse at the end of the month.
In the grand scheme, it appears a small matter, but it is encouraging to know that a fair number of our elected leaders are aware of the impact that less access to mental health services is going to have on McHenry County. How that need is addressed is sure to be a key storyline in the years ahead.
As budgets shrink, tax bills grow and salaries among many remain stagnant for those fortunate enough to be working, we can expect the debate to continue on where and what government must cut from the local to federal levels.
What government programs must be trimmed and why? Where is the waste in budgets? Where are services unnecessarily duplicated? What should public employee salaries and pensions look like? What can we afford?
These aren’t small matters. Partisan or ideological posturing will get us where they usually get us – on the outskirts of nowhere. These are real issues that will take real work – not campaign slogans.
Government should live within its means. Sure. Government has gotten too large. OK. There are too many handouts and programs paid for on the backs of taxpayers. Perhaps.
Clinging to ideological beliefs might make us feel better about ourselves and our positions, but they don’t wipe out poverty, mental illness or any other social issue. The Good Book says the poor always will be among us, and, of course, we’ll always have the mentally ill, but how we deal with those matters are collective problems.
And the matter of mental health treatment is only part of it, but it’s a significant part. Those who haven’t dealt directly with mental illness in their personal relationships may not realize the impact, but those who do quickly can educate the rest.
Put yourself in the shoes of a parent who frequently has called the police in fear of her adult son’s violent psychotic episodes. Come up with a pithy slogan that will prevent a clinically depressed person from committing suicide.
Next month, I’ll attend a national workshop in Chicago put on through the generosity of the Local Media Association focusing on the recession and mental health. I’d applied for consideration for the workshop even before we got the news about Family Service shutting down.
My hope is that we can gather some tools to cover this story in a manner befitting its magnitude. My other hope is that readers who are affected will share their experiences with us so we can explain the issues to people who don’t understand.
• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at email@example.com.