New Mental Health Board president resigns over personal issues

Board has lost eight members in past year

For the second time this year, the McHenry County Mental Health Board is losing a president.

Robert Routzahn, who became president of the troubled body July 1, announced his resignation Monday for personal reasons. He wrote that he was compelled to seek a divorce barely a month into his presidency and that he needs to focus on rebuilding his life and having custody of his children as a single father.

Routzahn's divorce was finalized last Wednesday, according to court records.

"This has been the single worst period of my entire life. Had I known I would be dealing with this last spring, I never would have applied for the board, let alone raise my hand to be president," Routzahn wrote.

The McHenry County Board appointed Routzahn and two other newcomers in March to three seats. Routzahn replaced former President Lee Ellis, who was not retained for reappointment by a County Board committee that has been seeking new blood and reform of the Mental Health Board.

The Mental Health Board in recent years has faced growing criticism that it has become a top-heavy bureaucracy that spends too much on administration and overhead that should instead go straight to agencies that work with mental health issues. The board every year disburses more than $8 million to these agencies through a special property-tax levy.

Routzahn is the eighth Mental Health Board member in the past 12 months to leave. One did not seek reappointment, two were ousted, and four besides Routzahn resigned before their terms expired.

Routzahn stressed Monday that his resignation is entirely personal and has nothing to do with any controversy over last week's closing of The Advantage Group, a Crystal Lake-based agency that aided young adults with substance abuse problems.

The agency, which had its funding suspended last year after an audit revealed significant fiscal irregularities, asked for a $49,000 one-time payment to stay afloat. Routzahn privately asked TAG to withdraw the proposal last month after he learned that the agency was likely violating its nonprofit status by actively supporting political candidates. Fellow board member Paula Yensen made the reason public shortly thereafter,

"I am proud of everything the board has done, and every vote that I've taken," Routzahn said.

County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill, who accepted Routzahn's resignation Monday, expressed sorrow for his situation and wished him luck.

"I'm really sorry that he's having some personal issues, and I want to thank him for being willing to step forward and serve," said Hill, R-Woodstock.

Routzahn's departure now leaves two vacancies on the nine-member board. The Public Health and Human Services Committee is set to interview applicants next month for the first one.

Of the current present Mental Health Board members, only two have served longer than a year.

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