Winnebago County Mental Health Board explains how funds help those in need

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – Winnebago County Board of Mental Health counselor Jeanette Towns was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995.

“I had no mental health care, I had no education, and I didn’t know where to go,” Towns said. “I just upset my family…and it took 10 years. A few stays in prison, a few stays in psychiatric hospitals, to finally get help.

Since Towns found this help, she has been a huge advocate for mental health in Winnebago County and a big part of the campaign supporting the 2020 Mental Health Tax Referendum. Rockford Urban Ministries invited members of the community to find out how the half cent on the dollar sales tax helps those who are struggling in the community.

“This money is being spent very carefully on social justice issues and services for those in need,” Rockford Urban Ministries director Stanley Campbell said.

Jason Holcomb, planning director for Community Impact Region 1, says the funding is for specific mental health programs that are in the greatest demand. Holcomb says the board only used about $1.5 of the $8.8. millions of dollars in funds they have received. Thousands of Rockford residents have already been served.

“Bringing people earlier and earlier in the process and diverting them from the criminal justice system, and helping them access the services they need,” Holcomb said.

Towns reminds anyone struggling that these programs are funded for a reason.

“Don’t let stigma and shame stop you from seeking help,” Towns said.

Holcomb says the reason the $8.8 million hasn’t been fully spent yet is due to a staffing shortage for some of these programs, but they already expect to see an increase in staff. Once these programs reach full capacity, Holcomb says more services can be added and the results will be transformational.

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