Normal City Council hears update on tax-funded Community Mental Health Action Plan

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Six years later, the Bloomington-Normal area’s mental health and public safety initiative is making a difference, but there’s still a long way to go, leaders of the effort say.

At Monday night’s regular town council meeting, McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre and County Administrator Cassy Taylor shared an annual update on the long-term plan and on how the fund’s revenues are spent, and in part set aside, to achieve the initiative’s objectives.

Key successes of the public-supported effort that uses sales tax revenue include renovating the McLean County Jail and improving access to mental health services there, McIntyre said. . The fund has also expanded community behavioral health services and programs, particularly with the opening of a walk-in triage clinic, he noted.

In addition, the initiative incorporates a redesign of the territory’s Integrated Electronic Justice System (EIJS) used by public service agencies.

The intergovernmental agreement between Normal, Bloomington and McLean County was passed in the spring of 2016. It expires in 2036. The three entities have agreed to raise the sales tax by 1% to fund the plan.

The county’s Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC) works in the area of ​​mental health.

“More was needed,” however, to help the community fill the gaps in mental health treatment, McIntyre said, and tax increases made that possible with the creation of the Mental Health Action Plan. .

The BHCC oversees this project. Improving prison facilities and finding more help for adolescents and young people with mental health issues are among its main goals. The plan also calls for better collaboration between social service agencies, better access to psychiatric assistance and efforts to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, McIntyre said.

On Monday, Taylor said the BHCC is expected to adopt an updated version of the plan on Friday. She shared details of several ongoing programs, including one to reduce the time homeless people with mental health issues spend in hospital emergency rooms and in the criminal justice system.

Currently, the FUSE (Frequent Users Systems Engagement) program is working with a dozen homeless people in McLean County, she said.

Taylor said the triage center opened in the spring of 2020, but the pandemic slowed its launch. In its second year, in 2021, the center serves approximately 300 people. She said the first quarter of this year is seeing even higher usage. People in mental crisis can see counselors at the center and stay there until 11 p.m.

The Mental Health Action Plan provided seed funding for the Regional Office for Education’s Bridge Academy programme. This helps students who cannot attend school due to the increased risk of hospitalization associated with mental health issues. Currently, approximately 45 McLean County teenagers attend Bridge Academy.

Over $23 million in tax revenue collected

Through the end of 2021, the fund has generated about $23.3 million in tax revenue, Taylor said. Of that amount, about $9.5 million has been spent and about $14 million remains in reserve, she said.

Spending was split evenly across four key areas – integrated case management, behavioral health services, debt servicing and criminal justice services.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos, City Manager Pam Reece and several other council members were initially concerned about the large amount in reserve. But Taylor and McIntyre explained how the money will go to the EIJS system and that the new electronic management system is expected to cost between $30 million and $35 million.

“There’s some really big spending on the horizon,” like the EIJS update that explains the reserves, Reece said. She noted that the normal police department will be one of the agencies that will benefit.

Koos thanked the pair for an informative session on a very complicated issue.

Several council members lamented that after five years, an adolescent mental health treatment center has not been realized. This is also one of the objectives of the initiative.

In other matters, the council approved two intergovernmental agreements with McLean County for animal sitter services and animal shelter services.

The five-year renewal agreements, for McLean County Animal Control Services, total approximately $400,000.

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