During the months before the election, amidst both the positive and the negative campaigning, the words of Grundy County Board member Frank Halpin impressed me as he commented on a seldom discussed, somewhat taboo, and often disregarded social issue — mental illness.
When asked by the Morris Daily Herald to identify and address the greatest challenge, besides the economy and job growth, facing Grundy County, he said this: “The increase in health needs mainly mental health due to state closing of facilities and financial restraints locally. Addressing these problems with less state and federal funds is a daunting task that I hope board members can work on.”
As a long time member of the Grundy County Mental Health Advisory Board, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and a former member of the Grundy County Board of Health, I very much appreciate when an elected official recognizes the importance of such issues and makes a public appeal for their attention.
The only county board candidate to mention mental illness as a priority was Mr. Halpin, and his re-election to the board pleases and comforts those of us whose lives are affected by the problem he identified.
For those whose lives are unaffected, please inform yourselves before you disregard or pass judgment. Remember that the brain is an organ, and like any organ, it gets infected and diseased, and it needs treatment.
Know jails and prisons have become our mental hospitals, where the “patients” go largely untreated. Know suicide is at its highest rate in 15 years. And finally, recognize a community can only survive and prosper when there is a focus on meeting the needs of its most vulnerable citizens.
Frank Halpin has voiced his concerns, and I know many others, including my own brother, board member Ken Iverson, understand the importance of providing and sustaining needed services in our community.
Unfortunately, some are inclined to set aside the human costs when the budget must be balanced, and mental health and other such human health services are often one of the first areas to receive cuts.
For that reason, I am glad Mr. Halpin and others who care will continue to be sensitive to all of the county’s residents by remembering we are all important and by making decisions based on more than the bottom line.
The Mental Health Division of the Grundy County Health Department provides many services, including evaluation, treatment, medication, and counseling. If you or anyone you know could benefit from these services, please contact the Mental Health Division at (815) 941-3138. Additionally, NAMI offers a local support group for family members of the mentally ill. For further information, call Michele at (815) 546-7626.