As members of the Evanston Mental Health Board, we strongly oppose the 12% funding cuts ($654,000 to $575,000) for community purchased services suggested in the FY2011 City of Evanston Proposed Budget.

Specifically, these cuts will detrimentally affect programs that support the following: children participating in after-school programs; supported housing and employment for individuals with mental illness; counseling and support for individuals who are homeless; drug treatment and family support programs for adults, children, and their families; early childhood special education services for children in in-home day care; supported employment and vocational training for individuals with intellectual disabilities; teen-mothers who utilize a teen baby nursery while they attend school; and children receiving special education whose families rely on highly qualified yet affordable legal representation. 

All of these individuals have shouldered more than their share of responsibility for balancing the budget.  Let us explain.

In 1967, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Community Mental Health Act (CMHA).  Part of this legislation established local community boards, comprised of community members with an expertise in disability-related services.  Recognizing the importance of diversity, the city of Evanston established the Mental Health Board as a 9-member citizen run board that distributes your tax money as funding for programs benefitting Evanston residents with or at-risk of developing a disability. 

Since its establishment, each member has been an honorable steward of your tax dollars to support individuals with significant needs, who often do not have a voice.  In fact, in order to receive funding, the agencies participate in a rigorous application and hearing process that examines how their agency and program mission coincides with the philosophy of the Mental Health Board and the needs of the Evanston community. 

Despite this hardship, agencies recently reported amazing success for their clients.  For instance:

The YWCA reported 100% of clients in their Domestic Violence Services program, who participated in counseling sessions, reported knowing more about the dynamics of domestic violence, safety planning, and legal remedies to protect themselves and their children.

PEER Services, Inc. reported that 51% of adolescents completed the drug treatment program, and 68% of youth decreased their use of substances in FY2009/10.

James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy reported that, while utilizing the center’s integrated social and legal services, 81% of clients, when identified as having a mental health disability, avoided entering a juvenile or temporary detention facility, and 100% of underage clients who were eligible to expunge or seal their record did so, improving their future employment, education and housing opportunities.

Housing Options reported that over 90% of their residents are medication-compliant at all times, and more than 90% of residents increased or maintained their level of functioning while living in local supported housing.

The Infant Welfare Society of Evanston reported 100% of teen mothers eligible for graduation graduated from ETHS in 2010-11, and 100% of children enrolled in the program received a developmental screening and received state early-intervention services when needed.

We urge you to contact your alderman and request that full funding be restored to community purchased services.  Join us in supporting programming for individuals with the most significant needs and who have already paid their fair share of this economic downturn.

EMHB members Eugene Schiltz, vice-chair, Geoff Cochran, Darlene Eady-Morris, Barbara Levin, Dan Rosen and Allison Stark, Joan Taylor and Kim Wolowiec-Fisher