708 Mental Health Board Rebuts Northwest Herald Article, Editorial

A press release from the McHenry County 708 Board:

Rebuttal to “Mental Health Board’s way at stake”

By Lee Ellis, president of the McHenry County Mental Health Board

January 28, 2013

The McHenry County Mental Health Board (MHB) deems it necessary to clarify information and correct inaccuracies presented in the article “Mental Health Board’s way at stake” by Kevin Craver published on the front page of the Northwest Herald on Jan. 24, 2013, and in the Northwest Herald’s “Our View” editorial on Jan. 27, 2013.

Both of these pieces fuel ongoing misperceptions regarding how the MHB manages taxpayer dollars designated for the treatment of

  • mental illness,
  • developmental disabilities,
  • chemical abuse, and
  • traumatic brain injury
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis

At a time when social services are deeply affected by cutbacks and late payments by the state, our community needs to work together to meet the needs of our citizens.

Effective collaborations benefit the people we serve, and effective collaborations can only begin with an understanding of the facts.

The MHB has dealt with differing opinions on how to manage tax dollars designated for the mental health fund since the people of McHenry County voted to establish a 708 Board, or Mental Health Board, in 1967.

The Board frames its decisions on management of taxpayer dollars based on its mission and by the mandates of the Illinois Community Mental Health Act.

The mission and mandates require the MHB to provide leadership in planning, coordinating, developing, and contracting for quality services for our citizens.

Transparency of MHB governance is an issue that comes up repeatedly. All MHB meetings are open to the public, and public comment is welcomed at each meeting. Meeting agendas are posted on McHenry County and MHB websites, and on the bulletin board just outside the main entrance to the MHB building. All MHB meeting minutes are available on the McHenry County Government website. The MHB also facilitates meetings of provider agencies monthly to share information and concerns.

Members of the community are welcome to contact the MHB at any time for clarification of any MHB related business.

Discussion of allocation of taxpayer dollars designated for the mental health fund in Craver’s article is sketchy and presents an inaccurate picture.

He notes that a Jan. 13 financial report shows that of the $13.1 million in revenue from taxes, $8.7 million is designated for use by community social services agencies, and that the MHB keeps “more than $4.4 million for itself.”

Craver does not explain that this $4.4 million includes funds for

  • facilitation of community supports for family centered programs such as WRAPAROUND and
  • Screening Assessment and Support Services (SASS).

This part of the budget also includes funding for

  • psychological evaluations,
  • mentoring, and
  • medication support, as well as for
  • the CareTrak program and
  • client transportation.
708 Board's building in Crystal Lake.

708 Board’s building in Crystal Lake.

It also includes scholarships for

  • consumers and
  • staff of funded agencies so they can attend trainings and conferences related to mental health.

Costs for management of clinical records of former clients of Family Services and Community Mental Health Center fall under this category.

It additionally includes MHB support of coordination programs such as Individual Care Grants, which are required as part of the SASS program, and support of Crisis Services.

All of these programs, and others, comprise a significant portion of the $4.4 million which Craver attributes to MHB administration.

Craver’s article also references criticisms of the MHB’s decision on the building expansion project.

The MHB used funds made available through the Americans Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the capital costs.

These funds could only be used for capital projects and were not available to providers for services.

708 Board attorney Frank Gosser confers with Board President Lee Ellis.

708 Board attorney Frank Gosser confers with Board President Lee Ellis.

The now completed expansion provides rent-free space for several consumer-operated community organizations and groups.

Just one example is the McHenry County McCap program, which serves young adults with special needs; McCap uses two conference rooms Monday through Friday.

Another inaccuracy in Craver’s article references a contract with Virginia Commonwealth University to pay former Executive Director Sandy Lewis $150 per hour for consultation services. Craver obtained this

This proposed contract was never fully negotiated and was never signed by either the MHB or by Virginia Commonwealth

The MHB previously advised the Northwest Herald on Nov. 27, 2012 in a Freedom of Information Act response to Sarah Sutschek of the Northwest Herald that “…there are no ‘Independent Contractor Agreements with Virginia Commonwealth University’ that have been entered into by or on behalf of the McHenry County Mental Health Board.”

Critics question funding of the former MHB Executive Director Sandy Lewis’ doctorial studies.

Sandy Lewis

Sandy Lewis

The MHB negotiated tuition costs with Dr. Lewis to promote continuing education and quality leadership development on behalf of the MHB, and it benefited throughout the education process.

The Board is currently reevaluating its policies on education benefits.

The MHB is guided by a volunteer board of eight community members who are appointed by the County Board, and one County Government  liaison. Its yearly budget is reviewed and appropriated by the McHenry County Board each year.  Additionally, MHB staff meets regularly with the Public Health and Human Services committee.

Furthermore, the MHB is CARF accredited, which is earned through a rigorous peer review process to ensure commitment to programs and services that are measurable, accountable, and of the highest quality. CARF is an independent, nonprofit accrediting body whose mission is to promote the quality, value and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons serviced.

The size of the MHB staff is frequently questioned by critics.

It is important to note that mental health boards across the state are very different in size, scope, and levy.

MHB staff size is driven by the community development required to effectively and efficiently support a community behavioral health system that serves the citizens of McHenry County.

Accountability and compliance to the rules and regulations of federal and state contracts are another factor.

Questions from the community are always welcome. The next meeting of the MentalHealth Board is scheduled for Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 6 p.m. at 620 Dakota Street inCrystal Lake. For information call the MHB at 815-455-2828, or check out the MHB website: www.mc708.org.


708 Mental Health Board Rebuts Northwest Herald Article, Editorial — 16 Comments

  1. This MHB is like Pac Man trying to swallow up good functioning organizations using bully tactics.

    Create a huge government entity and control of millions more dollars than they already get.

    Wise up folks.

    More rip offs.

  2. Any information available how much the 708 Board’s attorney is paid?

  3. 1. Transparency is not just about going to meetings. We are talking about Fiscal transparency. Where’s the audits? Who reviews them?
    2. Never addressed their overspending.
    3. Sure they can build a building but is is fiscally prudent with a mortgage over $250,000 a year, and building maintenance costs and building expansion continuing exceeding budget lines?.
    4. I’d like to know which consumers/other agencies got educational scholarships when the budget says its for MHB employees? Other agencies can’t even get a generator to protect the elderly let alone “education” money.
    5. Ellis is right in that 4.4 million does not representing all administration costs (50 % or more does) but does represent what the Mental Health Board keeps for its own internal programming and clearly leaves only 64% going to actual agencies who really do the treatment in the community. Isn’t this a conflict of interest when the funding body makes decisions to fund iit;s own programs over community based services?
    6. Ellis didn’t address the lawyer fee’s of $162,000 this month for a total of $290,147 for two months over a budget of $50,000.
    7. Again half true Ellis, that it is technicality accurate that Sandy Lewis’s contract was not signed. However, it was approved and documented in the MHB minutes. Therefore, it still is on the books as eligible to be signed.
    8. Didn’t address why only 2.3 % if given to substance abuse for all adult and adolescents in the county. Substance abuse no longer a problem? That certainly defies your own data and state/national statistics.
    How dare we not see it the Mental Health Board’s way!
    And this guy is seeking to be reappointed? No Way!

  4. Thank you Cal for publishing this rebuttal.

    It is a shining example of how defensive, non responsive, and out of touch the Mental Health Board is.

    There is something wrong and more and more people are getting involved.

    You have been fearless in getting information out there….I applaud you!

  5. The Mental Health Board is driven by its own grandiosity!

    Half of this rebuttal is what it has determined its role as the compliance and auditing body when you don’t comply or audit yourself.

    Why is the Mental Health Board in trouble with the State for its Medicaid Billings?

    With all of that staff certainly you know compliance right?

    And of course, why are you billing for services to Medicaid anyway?

    Serve the needs of the community?

    I think not.

  6. Where there is so much smoke there is fire.

    Thank you Cal and the Northwest Herald for writing about this.

    You have no idea how many people are growing more and more interested in this issue and aware that there is something seriously wrong with the Mental Health Board.

    This rebuttle is simply reflective of the thinking of this arrogant, out of touch board that thinks by simply saying it is transparent does not mean that it is.

    Really? You think that attending meetings is what that word means?

    Throwing babble at the citizens of this county when it comes to 13 million dollars and shifting it onto the county, as “having approved everything” does not excuse the fact that you as a board, are accountable.

    The Newspaper is wrong, the citizens are wrong, the agencies are wrong… Rebuttal?

    Your response Mr. Ellis simply confirms all that has been reported and said.

    I for one, hope you don’t get re-elected if this response is the best you can do!

  7. This rebuttal glosses over the facts and is just another example of a pompous MHB administration singing their praises.

    Your Sandy Lewis contract example ignores the fact that issuance of the contract was approved by the MHB and it was only not consummated when the heat got turned up.

    Why is the MHB using funds to create their own programs at the expense of the agencies that already exist?

    Who audits the MHB and where are those audits?

    While money (my tax money mind you!) was avaialbe to expand the MHB facilities, was it necessary and financially prudent to do so?

    Was new debt added to the MHB books as a result of the same.

    Questions have been raised and a discussion has been started.

    Instead of telling everyone how wrong they are, why not invite true discussion around the facts?

    Collaboration is not a one man sport.

  8. Lee Ellis is part of the problem.

    Time to get rid of the good old boy network.

    Let’s have a fair, unbiased investigation and see where the $ is really going.

    Amazing how so many other boards in IL operate with real transparency.

    This Board has a long history of mismanagement and self serving strtegies.

    This is an ongoing outrage that needs more in depth coverage instead of political coverup by the good old boy network.

  9. Ellis doesn’t even live here? I’m not in the political “know” but why is he on the Mental Health Board? Sounds like Ellis is confusing Interest of the community with political interest.

  10. So with 13 million dollars just comes more political corruption and a new target available to raid a new source of money off the backs of the taxpayers and using the name of the “needs of the community” as there trojan horse.

    When will this stop.

    Agencies actually take seriously their mission to serve only to not realize they are in a loosing game with the funder now become the funded and bullying agencies until they break under the pressure.

    State pressure?

    Nothing compared to the unfair practices and standards calculated to make the cards stack against the agencies and for the Mental Health Boards own internal “priorities”.

    I guess absolute power yeilds absolute corruption, eh Mr. Ellis?

    This board should be ashamed.

    No wonder only one member I know ever speaks up, Connee Meschini.

    The rest of you, are you that afraid?

    Or are you just winking at Lee Ellis knowing the deal and somehow a part of it?

  11. Lee Ellis has a father that has contributed thousands to the Nygen campaign.
    Lee’s brother is a deputy in the McHenry County Sheriff’s Dept.

    Is this any surprise??

  12. Thanks Cal for keeping on this story.

    Sounds like there is so much more to come!

    Time for all taxpayers to pay closer attention as this story unfolds.

  13. FINALLY people are seeing. Guess who else Nygren has on the Mental Health Board?

    Here’s a hint, she’s married to Nygren’s Latino Advisor or whatever that clown calls himself.

    Magdalena Rivera or Maggie is also on the board.

    What are her qualifications?

    At one time she worked at Home State Bank.

    Oh, who ran Home State Bank back in the day? Another Ellis? The Father of Lee? And did you know that Gary Pack once indicted Mental Health Board Member Maggie for FRAUD. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-03-03/news/9703030042_1_pack-county-clerk-grand-jury)

    I wonder whatever happened to that case? Nolle Pros? Oh yeah, it was right about then that the Rivera’s and Nygren started getting together.

    I saw a post one time on Maggie’s Facebook that made reference to her Latin King connections as well as her connections to Jesse Jackson (Can’t decide which is worse).

    Closet Democrats and Criminals really should limit their Facebook exposure.

    This whole county is a cesspool of corruption.

  14. Northwest Herald

    Mental Health Board’s way at stake

    Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 9:59 a.m. CDT

    “Lewis’ departure as executive director was announced shortly after she received her doctorate from the George Williams College of Education at Aurora University, for which the board paid at least $30,000 in tuition and expenses, according to bills obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.”


    Northwest Herald

    McHenry County Mental Health Board taps new executive director

    Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 11:56 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 4:38 p.m. CDT

    “Lewis’ departure raised eyebrows because she left just after receiving her doctorate from Aurora University, for which the board paid $30,000 in tuition and fees under her contract.”


    Taxpayers shouldn’t pay for college classes for government employees in any level of government including mental health boards, school districts, and state agencies.

    The biggest such indirect subsidy for compensating employees for taking college classes is lane movements (horizontal movements) on school district salary charts found in collective bargaining agreements between the school district and teacher union (required by state law to be posted on the school district website), which hikes salary and thus pension.

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