Will County selects members for new mental health board

A nurse, a social worker and several mental health advocates are among the seven members appointed to the new Will County Community Mental Health Board.

Voters approved the creation of the board in the November election, with about 53% of county voters supporting the referendum. Just over 118,600 residents approved the creation of a board to evaluate and improve mental health services in the county.

The group will help coordinate services for those dealing with mental health issues, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance abuse.

County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said it is important to have individuals with experience in all of those areas. She added that she also wants to ensure the board is diverse, and believes the board members have the necessary leadership skills and backgrounds.

“We have many talented people,” Buratino-Tarrant said.

The county board approved the nomination Thursday, but not without controversy over who was authorized to make the appointment.

Several Republican board members said the language in the statute was unclear as to whether the county executive or county board president had the authority to make appointments.

Attorney Mary Tatro said the authorization rests with the county executive with the board’s approval.

Republican leader Steve Balich of Homer Glenn voted against each appointment. He said the state statute read as if the power of appointment should rest with Judy Oglala of Moonee, the county board chair, not Buratino-Tarrant, and a written legal opinion before the board could ratify the choices. Wanted to

Balich said he was disappointed with the process and wanted to review the resumes of all applicants before selecting the seven.

Members of the Mental Health Board would not be paid and were appointed for staggered terms of two, three or four years.

Ellenlyn Costa, a Democrat from Bolingbrook, will be the county board’s representative for the board’s first two years. Under the Community Mental Health Act, only one member of the county board can serve.

Costa, who was elected in November, is a fund administrator for the SEIU Healthcare Illinois Benefit Fund in Chicago, where she leads a team that serves 20,000 front line health care and child care workers across the state, their According to his biography on the campaign website. Costa holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Care Leadership from National-Louis University.

“She’s an ally,” Buratino-Tarrant said. “She brings people together. She seeks compromise.

Orlando DeYoung, a Plainfield resident and mental health advocate who helps connect young community members to mental health services, was also appointed to a two-year term.

Two people were appointed for three years. Katrina Jones of University Park, who was recommended by Oglala, is a nurse with 22 years of experience in medicine and has received specialized mental health training during her career. Ashley Searing of Joliet, a community mental health awareness advocate and paraprofessional for Joliet Elementary District 86, founded RejuveNate Plants and Wellness to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.

The last three residents were appointed for a term of four years.

Michael Flanagan of Green Garden Township is a retired firefighter who provided peer support for firefighters, police officers and military veterans. He has also worked with the 100 Club of Illinois, which supports families of first responders lost in the line of duty, and the National Association for Down Syndrome.

Terry King, of Plainfield, is a retired Will County employee with more than 20 years of experience as a mental health advocate. King was a 15-year board member with the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Will and Grundy counties, where she was honored with several regional awards.

Jessica Parks, of Bolingbrook, is a licensed clinical social worker with experience with community mental health, substance abuse disorder treatment, and federal probation counseling. She also has leadership roles on the Bolingbrook Pride Board and the Will County Pride Coalition Board.

The Mental Health Board should meet before July 1 and elect a president, secretary and other officers. They will then come up with a meeting schedule and begin the planning process. They must also set a budget and levy, which will be approved by the county board.

The maximum levy that can be assessed is 0.05% per equivalent assessed value, but the levy ultimately allowed may be less.

“I am committed to helping this board succeed,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “This is clearly an important issue for voters.”

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter.

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