Health services discussmerger

Evan Hessel

The Evanston Mental Health Board will continue to analyze how a proposed consolidation of human service revenues would affect local social service agencies.

The Mental Health Board and representatives from local social service agencies met Thursday at Evanston Civic Center to discuss the proposal, which would consolidate human service funding under the leadership of the board.

Under current funding procedures, both the Mental Health Board and the Human Services Committee make recommendations to the City Council on how to allocate mental health grants and Community Purchased Services.

The Mental Health Board and the Human Services Committee, an Evanston City Council aldermanic subcommittee, oversee the funding of 20 social service agencies from the city’s revenues. Of the 20 agencies, six are funded by both organizations.

“What the consolidation would do is have one group review all requests from agencies for funding,” said Harvey Saver, assistant director of Evanston Mental Health Services.

The Mental Health Board would oversee the revenue pool because it is already set up as a funding organization and could alleviate some of the workload of the aldermen, Saver said.

Prior to considering the proposal for recommendation to City Council, the Mental Health Board is seeking the input from Evanston social service agencies to determine how the consolidation could affect the level of human services received by residents.

Two main concerns with the possible consolidation are a loss of funds to organizations receiving money from both groups and an increased competition between agencies, said Will Sundblad, executive director of Connections for Homeless.

Potential revenue losses in the consolidation process are particularly threatening for agencies, especially since City Council approved an 18.5 percent cut from mental health grants and Evanston Community Purchased Services in February.

With all agencies vying for the same money, certain groups may be overlooked, Sundblad said.

Under the leadership of the Mental Health Board, some social service workers might be concerned that agencies not related to mental health might not be granted money they deserve, said Randy J. Walker, a program director at Anixter Center.

Walker also is concerned that the removal of the Human Service Committee from revenue management might distance the council from the actual agencies.

“We don’t want to present the council with a laundry list of things the aldermen have to do and have the agencies fall out of sight,” she said.

But the consolidation could create a direct route from the agencies to the aldermen if the board members advocate human service issues in general, as opposed to presenting the council with agency-by-agency requests, Walker said.

“It makes sense to let the Mental Health Board, who are experts on the agencies, be their advocates and inform the council on their concerns,” she said.

The board will continue to solicit input from local agencies before even considering making a recommendation of the consolidation proposal, said Jane Grover, chairwoman of the Mental Health Board.

Ten service agencies already are scheduled to participate at the board’s May 9 meeting.