Northwest Herald

Vote ‘yes’ for mental health funding in McHenry County on March 19

In the last few years, mental health needs have increased across the country. In a 2023 poll, almost 40% of McHenry County adults reported recent symptoms of anxiety or depression, which has doubled since 2020. In 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General called the increase in youth mental health needs “the defining public health crisis of our time.” And a recent McHenry County needs assessments ranked mental health and substance use as the top two health concerns for our residents.

While the needs have increased dramatically, the stigma around seeking mental health care continues to decrease. More people than ever before are seeking help. However, they are often met with long wait lists and a shortage of providers. Funding for local mental health agencies has not kept pace with this need. This month, though, there is a chance to vote “yes” for increased mental health funding in McHenry County.

Our agencies receive vital financial support from the McHenry County Mental Health Board, which is currently funded by a property tax levy included in the county line item on your tax bill. The McHenry County Board, in a nearly unanimous bipartisan vote last December, recognized this funding is not keeping pace with the community’s needs and agreed to ask voters to change how mental health services are funded.

On March 19, primary ballots will include a referendum to create a 0.25% sales tax to replace the property tax for the Mental Health Board. This tax would be implemented countywide on most retail purchases except for food, medicine and medical equipment. If approved, McHenry County expects a full year’s collection of sales taxes for the Mental Health Board will be between $12 million and $13 million, about $2 million more than the property tax. This would eliminate the mental health funding from the property tax, but allow growth in mental health funding as the county retail base grows.

Many local agencies, including NAMI McHenry County, Family Health Partnership Clinic, Independence Health and Therapy, Options and Advocacy, and others have passed resolutions in support of the referendum.

A change in this funding will allow organizations to somewhat keep pace with the increased demand for services. With more than 10 years of no increase in the mental health levy, we have fallen behind what our community needs. Besides allowing more people to be served and increasing what is available, the proposed sales tax also provides benefits to taxpayers. People who live outside of McHenry County would be contributing to the tax through retail purchases they make at local businesses. Also, most homeowners would have a difficult time spending enough to match the current property tax levels. The owner of a home with a fair market value of $250,000 now pays $78.61 in taxes per year for the Mental Health Board property tax. With the sales tax, to reach that $79 annual rate, the same homeowner would need to spend $31,442 in retail purchases in the county, excluding food, medicine and medical equipment.

The McHenry County Mental Health Board funds about 40 agencies that provide mental health, substance use and developmental disability services. These providers served 47,000 people, including 28,000 new clients, with its county funding in 2023. All of these agencies are experiencing significant increases in demand for services and need our support, now more than ever.

Voters can request a referendum-only ballot if they don’t want to declare a party in the primary, and mail-in and early voting options are now available. For more information on voting, visit

Please join our agencies and frontline workers and vote “yes” for mental health on March 19. Together, we can make a difference.

• Suzanne Hoban is founder and executive director of the Family Health Partnership Clinic. Abbey Nicholas is executive director of NAMI McHenry County (National Alliance on Mental Illness).