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Our View: Let Mental Health Board fulfill mission

Published: Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

There has been tremendous change on for the McHenry County Mental Health Board over the past year, and as with all tremendous changes, there has been good and bad.

The board lost its executive director a year ago and has had a great deal of board turnover – eight members have left in the past year.

Within the past few weeks, interim Executive Director Todd Schroll announced his departure, and board President Robert Routzahn stepped down for personal reasons.

Examinations of the board’s operations in the past showed too much spending on administrative costs and that the board was taking on service provider roles, which was in conflict with the original mission of funding social service agencies who work with the mentally ill and those struggling with substance abuse issues.

There was deserved criticism of the board borrowing $3.5 million for a new building and for spending about $30,000 so former Executive Director Sandy Lewis could get her doctorate degree, only to see her leave for a university. A $1.8 million attempted bailout for the now defunct Family Services and Community Mental Center didn’t work out well for anyone.

There is still criticism over who’s right and who’s wrong in an ongoing dispute between some of the board and The Advantage Group substance abuse counseling agency that folded after trying to get emergency funding from the board to remain open.

There’s nothing wrong with change and refocusing how the Mental Health Board spends its money, and scrutiny is warranted. But there seems to be too much animosity and some political grandstanding that misses the bigger picture.

This is a mostly new board of volunteers whose goal is to get the most out of taxpayer funds and get them to people who need help. They don’t run for election and aren’t on the board to serve any political party or politician.

Significant cuts have been made over the past year, including a reduction of staff from 33 full-time equivalent positions over the past year and 50 at its peak. It’s a good start.

What the board needs now is time to get familiar with the important work social service agencies who rely on funding do so they can make informed decisions going forward. What they don’t need is posturing and micromanaging.

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