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North River mental health initiative passes

Chicago’s North River community is looking at next steps in providing additional free mental health services for its residents. Seventy-four percent of voters there approved a binding referendum measure that would expand preventative services, such as mental health outreach to schools, seniors, and veterans, through an additional property tax. The services might also extend to grief and couples counseling.

Under state law, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn have 90 days from Tuesday’s election to appoint a nine-member Governing Commission to oversee the program.

“They’re going to look at what kinds of mental health services are available in the community,” said Michael Snedeker of the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers, “and (to see) what kind of mental health services aren’t available in the community that will be needed.”

North River is the first community in Illinois to consider a local referendum for this purpose. The measure is enabled by legislation signed by Gov. Quinn last year, which gives communities the authority to determine whether to tax themselves for the additional services.

North River is a collection of neighborhoods on Chicago’s northwest side that includes Albany Park, North Park and Sauganash. Snedeker says the program aims to restore preventative mental health services that public clinics eliminated years ago.

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