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Mental health panel not on board with cuts

Evanston’s Mental Health Board Tuesday rejected a call by the city manager to slash city payments to mental health agencies by 24 percent.

Instead board members said they had struggled to find ways to trim proposed spending for next year by just 0.3 percent — or $2,500 from a budget of $844,000.

Evanston’s Mental Health Board Tuesday rejected a call by the city manager to slash city payments to mental health agencies by 24 percent.

Instead board members said they had struggled to find ways to trim proposed spending for next year by just 0.3 percent — or $2,500 from a budget of $844,000.

That message wasn’t warmly received by some aldermen on the Human Services Committee, who suggested the board was out of touch with the city’s financial realities.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, "We’d like to say yes to everything you want to do, but we’ve got to look at what you’re proposing in the context of the $9 million budget shortfall we have to deal with."

"I don’t think your proposal is meeting us in any substantial way," Jean-Baptiste said. "I do think it’s important that you at least try to meet the city’s proposed reduction by a percentage that makes sense. If we’re talking about reducing, it’s because we don’t have the money."

Aldermen Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, and Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said they agreed with Jean-Baptiste and proposed that the committee forward the Mental Health Board report to the full City Council with no recommendation.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, who served on the Mental Health Board for eight years, said the board has professionalized its operations and added a lot of accountability to its funding process.

She said the council should look for ways to restore the $200,000 in cuts proposed by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.

"These are core services in Evanston," Grover said, "an ounce of prevention as opposed to a pound of cure."

But in the end Grover and Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, joined in the vote to send the report to the full council without a recommendation.

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