Naperville, Lisle and Winfield townships to be asked to put mental health board referendums on election ballot

Petitions asking that community mental health board referendums be put on November election ballots in Lisle, Naperville and Winfield townships will be presented Monday to township officials.

Signed by more than 3,000 people, the petitions ask that voters be allowed to decide if mental health boards — also known as 708 boards — be established in each township to provide services for people with mental health and substance abuse issues or with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Each board would have taxing powers to fund needed programs.

Donna Prepejchal, who lives in Lisle Township, said when the subject of a mental health board was brought to her attention, she researched the matter for the League of Women Voters of Downers Grove, Woodridge and Lisle.

“It seemed too confusing so I wanted to study it. … Once I realized nobody’s driving the bus, I became a supporter,” Prepejchal said.

Under the proposal, each township board would put the issue on the election ballot for voters to decide. If approved, mental health board members would be appointed by the township supervisor.

State statues direct board members to develop one-year plans and multiyear goals for distributing funds for expanded services collected through a tax levy, Prepejchal said.

The board would not duplicate existing services, but work with existing community agencies to fill community needs, she said.

Because mental health boards are planning bodies, safeguards are built in and all tax distributions would be authorized by the township board, she said.

More than 60 mental health boards already operate in the state, including those in the townships of Berwyn, Bloomingdale, Hanover, Milton, Oak Park, Proviso and Lyons, according to the Advocate for 708 group.

Prepejchal said the push for community mental health boards has been snowballing in the past year. Efforts are underway to get referendums on the ballot in the townships of Schaumburg, Wheeling, Vernon and Addison, she said.

Naperville voters who live in Will County will see a similar measure on their ballots in November but it is a countywide effort.

In June the Will County Board approved asking voters to create a community mental health board and levy a tax of 0.05% of a property’s equalized assessed value to fund services for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse disorders.

Although several Will County townships had discussed creating mental health boards on their own, some county board members said they believed it should be a countywide initiative.

A levy of 0.05% per equalized assessed value would create a tax of $50 on a home that is worth about $300,000, county officials said.

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