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Thinking small

Published: Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

The recent article concerning the Mental Health Board under Bev Thomas and Dennis Smith minimized a glaring reality. The article barely mentions that, in 1997 and 2004 (the only years where the breakdown is provided), more than 35 percent of the MHB’s revenue came from outside sources (i.e., not the local property-tax levy). The reality is that, under Thomas and Smith, the MHB became quite adept at competing for and securing public and private grants that brought needed services to county residents. Services were provided at, basically, no local cost to residents because they were funded via private, state or federal dollars.

The Mental Health Board under Thomas and Smith was a success. The MHB secured and administered needed state-funded programs such as Project Success, SASS and Family Centered Services/ Wraparound for McHenry County. The MHB was so fiscally responsible that the County Board stole its surpluses (“cut into mental health revenue”) in order to balance their own budgets. The MHB focused on administration and coordination of grant dollars and grant-funded services, which allowed agencies to focus on service delivery.

The Mental Health Board under Thomas and Smith was a success. They thought big, competed big, and won big for McHenry County.  Perhaps that is why “[the County Board] agreed with the direction the Mental Health Board was going, and didn’t want any change.” Now the prevailing thought on the County Board is to “think small.”  Unfortunately, vulnerable county residents may get just that.

Carlos Acosta


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