Vote for Mental Health: Kankakee County to Hold Referendums on 0.25 Cent Sales Tax


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KANKAKEE, Ill. – Residents of Kankakee County will be voting on a sales tax referendum in the upcoming April 4th General Election. 

The referendum proposes a ¼ cent sales tax increase to establish long-term solutions to address chronic gaps in the mental health system of care. The tax, which would still keep the highest sales tax rate in the county at 8.5%, has been met with several objections and questions about the need for the tax and how the funds will be spent.

To address concerns among residents, Kankakee County Citizens for Mental Health will be holding four informational meetings. The meetings will provide residents the opportunity to discuss the need for the tax and how the funds will be spent. The sessions will be held on Thursday, March 23, noon – 1:00 PM at Kankakee Public Library, 201 E Merchant St, Kankakee; Thursday, March 23, 7:00 – 8:00 PM, ONU Weber Center, Room 306, 1 University Ave, Bourbonnais; Tuesday, March 28, 6:30 – 7:30 PM at Limestone Public Library, 2701 W Tower Road, Kankakee, and Friday, March 31, 5:30 – 6:30 PM, Leo Hassett Community Center, 211 N Main St, Manteno.

While some people have expressed their belief that there are already enough mental health services available in the county, data suggests otherwise. The Partnership for a Healthy Community has identified the shortage of mental health services as a priority public health concern for nearly a decade. Wait times to receive treatment and gaps in services are also well documented.

The ratio of population to mental health service providers in Kankakee County is 660 to one, which is higher than both state and national ratios.

The Illinois Community Mental Health Act requires that before levying the tax, the County Board must establish a seven-member community mental health board who will administer the funds. All members of the board must be residents of Kankakee County and represent interested groups such as local health departments, medical societies, hospital boards, lay associations concerned with mental health, as well as the general public. The board will work with existing non-profits, county, state, and federal governments to fund services that are not funded elsewhere.

If the referendum is approved, the proceeds of the tax will be deposited into a special county occupation tax fund for mental health purposes. The community mental health board is required to do an annual one-year plan and a three-year plan and survey the needs of the community every three years. The board will also be required to prepare and submit an annual budget and report to the County Board, which will be available to the Illinois Department of Human Services and to members of the General Assembly whose districts include any part of Kankakee County.

Debra Baron, the chair of Kankakee County Citizens for Mental Health, states that identifying and addressing mental illness early saves more than it costs in the long run. The Community Mental Health Board will not add another layer of government but will work towards providing funding and direction to meet the unmet local needs for mental health services.


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