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Mental health spending backed

The five aldermen on the Human Services Committee indicated support this week for continuing to spend $844,000 in taxpayer funds to support private agencies providing mental health services in Evanston.

The only criticism of the funding proposal from the Mental Health Board came from Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, who said one program, budgeted for $9,800, should be funded by Evanston Township High School rather than the city.

Tisdahl said the Center for Independent Futures "is a wonderful organization," but that under state law the high school is required to provide the service, which provides training to special education students in independent living readiness.

Mental Health board member Sue Cantor defended the allocation, saying funding for such programs at the state level is extremely tight and that she hoped once the program is in place the high school would take it over.

Board chair Marcia Achenbach said the board was not asking for any increase in overall support to private agencies this year.

She criticized proposals that the city deal with its budget crisis in part by reducing or eliminating the payments to private agencies.

"We believe it would be detrimental to the Evanston community to eliminate these programs," Achenbach said, arguing that the programs reduce crime, teen pregnancy and welfare dependency.

"These programs make for a more livable environment for all of us," she said, by, among other things, also reducing the number of homeless people on the street.

The board reviewed requests for funding 28 programs operated by 19 agencies and approved funding for 26 of them.

Final approval of the funding requests is up to the full nine-member City Council.

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