The McHenry County Mental Health Board will be selecting an executive director soon, at a time when social service agencies are in a state of crisis through neither the fault of the Mental Health Board nor the agencies themselves.
Illinois has been in a fiscal crisis for a number of years now, and social services are suffering because of it.
The Mental Health Board, established in 1969, is a separate taxing agency that collects property taxes to pay for services for mental illness, substance abuse and the developmentally disabled. The nine-member board that runs the agency is appointed by McHenry County Board members.
Whatever one’s opinion on particular decisions that the agency has made over decades or within the past few years, the board’s role is vital to the community. Stewardship of the board’s $13 million budget is a key responsibility – its primary function being to disburse those funds appropriately.
At present, there is some concern among members of the County Board’s Public Health and Services Committee, which makes recommendations for Mental Health Board appointments to the County Board, about a number of issues. After interviews to fill open seats, the committee recommended three newcomers over current Mental Health Board President Lee Ellis, whose term is up.
A full County Board vote was expected on the appointments last week, but the vote was delayed because of a technical matter.
The delay caused some, particularly Public Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Donna Kurtz, to suspect that politics were at play regarding the committee’s recommendations. Kurtz and others think the new Mental Health Board should be seated before a decision is made on its new executive director.
Ellis addressed that concern when he sent a memo saying that the selection of a new executive director would be delayed until the new membership of the board is seated and prepared to make such a decision.
Given the political concerns and the concerns of local social service agencies, Ellis and the current board made the right call. While perceptions aren’t as important as the social services themselves, it would be a shame if Mental Health Board matters became overshadowed by controversy. The full County Board should make its appointments. The new Mental Health Board members should be seated and given time to catch up on the recruitment process. Only then should the Mental Health Board make its decision on an executive director.