McHenry County Mental Health Board taps new executive director

Scott Block becomes board's first full-time leader in two years

CRYSTAL LAKE – A familiar face to the county mental health community will take the reins of the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

Scott Block, who oversees the county’s mental health court and other specialty courts, will take over as the board’s executive director Dec. 1. The Mental Health Board approved Block’s hiring on a 7-0 vote Wednesday afternoon, choosing him from a pool of six finalists.

The Mental Health Board has been without a full-time executive director for almost two years. It underwent significant changes and reform last year in the wake of critics’ allegations it became a top-heavy bureaucracy that spent too much taxpayer revenue on administration, and a building expansion it didn’t need, at the expense of client agencies.

“It will be wonderful to have someone permanent at the helm and at the front of the Mental Health Board, and he’s gotten such wonderful recommendations from the community,” Meschini said.

Since 2009, Block has been director of the Office of Special Projects for the 22nd Judicial Circuit that covers McHenry County. He is in charge of the budget and administration of the county’s mental health court, veterans court, adult drug court and domestic violence court. The voluntary specialty courts offer nonviolent offenders treatment and supervision in lieu of traditional punishment.

Block, of Crystal Lake, said he is excited for the opportunity and considers it a “natural progression” of his work in mental health. He has several counseling certifications and a master’s degree in counseling, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“I think, with my expertise and my local knowledge, I have a lot I can bring to the board,” Block said.

The job of the Mental Health Board is to disburse funds from a special countywide property-tax levy to local agencies that provide services for people with mental and developmental disabilities. Its nine members are appointed by the McHenry County Board, which also must approve its annual budget.

Block will replace interim director Lyn Orphal, who has held the top position since January. The Mental Health Board has operated under several temporary leaders since former director Sandy Lewis left in November 2012 to pursue a teaching and management job at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Block will make $100,000 a year, and his contract is in full compliance with the County Board’s hiring and benefits policies, Meschini said. Lewis’ departure raised eyebrows because she left just after receiving her doctorate from Aurora University, for which the board paid $30,000 in tuition and fees under her contract.

The Mental Health Board has undergone almost a complete turnover over the past two years, and has slashed staff, cut spending and maintained its allocations to local agencies despite losing tax revenue. About 25 agencies receive Mental Health Board funding.

The Mental Health Board’s tax rate of 15 cents per $100 in assessed valuation accounts for about $90 of the property tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home who takes the homestead exemption.

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