In the season and spirit of giving, I pray everyone is physically and mentally happy during the holiday season. I especially want our children to be physically, socially, emotionally, and academically well throughout the New Year.
My concern regarding how schools are implementing the 2003 Children’s Mental Health Act led to a discussion about the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission. I met with Executive Director Lisa DeVivo to discuss corrections to my previous article. She indicated that she works for the taxpayers to ensure their money is spent efficiently and wisely, accurate information is already available, and the tax levy is a community process.
The Commission uses our tax dollars for 31 programs providing services in mental health, substance abuse, developmental disability, and prevention. Several organizations I listed in my previous article were part of their Adult Consortium but not funded programs. The Commission served 6,291 people, and it has downsized in staff, office space, and indirect costs.
DeVivo said that as an advocate for the taxpayers she was not hired as part of the politics surrounding the commission. She has a Masters degree from the University of Illinois. As a mental health researcher at the University of Chicago, she was recruited to be the Associate Director for eight years and groomed to become the executive director this fiscal year. She has conducted a needs assessment, implemented operating and technology systems, marketed the Commission, and designed a fee for service conversion.
The funding from the tax levy for 2005-2006 is about $3.8 million, and the Commission has appropriated about $4.7 million. The operating cost is about $1.8 million, which includes about $.8 million for personnel, insurance, and other operating expenses and about $1 million in contingency and expansion.
The Commission funds close the gap in the funding provided by the State. Agencies monitored by towns and services, said DeVivo, are used and evaluated with goals and objectives attached to the funding based on their services and performance. There are three ways to receive funds: renew existing contract, requests for proposals for specific services, and anyone can submit a request at anytime”funding is approved by the Board.
The Commission has four visionary goals, she said: 100% conversion for all agencies to a fee for service basis; implementation of the matching Medicaid funds; partnership with Cook County Board to establish a Mental Health Court at Maybrook; and development of an early mental health screening in the schools.
Of course, politics is involved”the board members who approve the appropriations are politicians. Politicians, as winners of the spoils, support those who support them. It appears that the Executive Director works with the politicians to advocate for requests based on their merit and benefit to the taxpayers.
Although I am not an investigative reporter, I will gather information and report my opinion: board members names should be on the literature and website; community involvement is needed; administrative board members should have experience; qualified family members who do not live or directly benefit from income can work; appointment of board members should be reviewed by the state; the commission should explore providing its own mental health services; Adult Consortium needs to be re-established; and new outcome measurements should provide agency success data.
As the largest township and the second largest mental health commission in the state with the highest rate of mental illness, we have about 155,000 residents and the Commission has serviced only about four percent.
Let’s monitor the actions of the Commission by reviewing the website to examine agency funding and outcomes for Proviso residents, donations and contributions, and proposal approvals based on merit and mental health expertise rather than politics.
The Commission and schools must address the 2003 Children’s Mental Health Act to reduce the number of youth and adults requiring services and increase the number of healthy individuals and families in Proviso Township.
If you want me to address any school, community, or Township issues, let me know your thoughts at http://craytonbychoice.tripod.com, gc11057