Evanston Mental Health board discusses proposed budget

Maddie Elkins, Reporter

The Evanston Mental Health Board on Thursday night announced its proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, which includes nearly $81,000 more than last year’s total.

The proposed budget would be distributed among 15 agencies with 21 programs, including the Childcare Network of Evanston, Connections for the Homeless, Peer Services and Y.O.U Youth and Family Services. The 2014 budget also includes a one-time request of $30,000 due to automatic spending cuts at the federal level that went into effect in March.

Board vice chair Kim Fisher said four of five members of the Human Services Committee support the proposed budget, and one member said the budget is a drop in the bucket compared to the services the Mental Health Board and associated agencies provide.

The meeting opened with a presentation on youth violence prevention from Joyce Bartz, special education services director for Evanston/Skokie School District 65. Bartz touted the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, which promotes family and community involvement and teaches students social skills.

Bartz also updated the board on District 65’s plan to address bullying, which involves educating school staff, reaching out to parents and holding class sessions.

“I think we have a big problem in terms of really providing the rights services to children,” Bartz said. “We have over 400 children who have been identified as homeless. … The economics issue and the difficulties for a lot of families impact the parents being able to provide some of the stability that many of these children need.”

The board also discussed Curt’s Cafe, a nonprofit coffee shop that employs former convicts to provide them with job training and marketable skills. The board debated whether the program is successful, especially in light of a $21,000 grant the cafe is requesting from the city.

Some board members supported Curt’s Cafe for attempting to deliver an important service, while others expressed concern about the program’s lack of results. Some members said the issue relates to the board’s own purpose, which has evolved over the years.

“We fund more than just mental health services, and in our bylaws we fund human services,” board chair Allison Stark said. “Are we being fully utilized by council members or different other boards when there are agencies that are seeking funding? … What is our use if people aren’t turning to us and saying, ‘Hey, the city would like to give money to this group, this social service agency. We think they’re doing good things,’ to be a resource to them?”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MadeleineElkins