Mental health survey randomly making way throughout DeKalb


Do you or anyone in your family suffer from any of the following: Mood swings? Seizures? Autism? Substance abuse?

DeKalb residents should expect to see similar questions in a mental health survey within the next week. The survey will be mailed to 4,000 random DeKalb County households, decided proportionally by town population size.

“The mental health survey is an assessment of…the needs and the views of mental health, substance abuse and mental health facilities,” said Joel Cowen, assistant dean for Health Systems Research at University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.

The survey was distributed by the DeKalb County Mental Health Board through the Health Systems Research facility in Rockford and is the first of its kind in the area, Cowen said.

The survey is an eight-page booklet which includes questions regarding the needs of services for family members, attendance of self-help or support groups, experience in seeking services and so on, he said.

There is no set due date for the surveys, but follow-up postcards will explain that the Health Systems Research facility will stop accepting data on Oct. 20, Cowen said.

Some county members support the survey with hopes that it may provide a summary of what services are needed in order to spend tax dollars more efficiently.

“I’m sure that there are a lot of people in the county that could use services like that, but the general public doesn’t necessarily know where to turn to find the information,” said DeKalb resident Michael Harriss. “I don’t want to waste money, but if it’s a good cause, I’m all for it.”

The survey is just one part of the process, Cowen said. The data is analyzed at the college by a group of social researchers focused on health and human services. After the data is computed, interviews are to be conducted with individual people, schools and criminal justice officials, among others.

Finally, Cowen and his researchers present the results to the board.

“It’s [the board’s] job to make sure the right services are there for the right people,” Cowen said.

Even though she has not seen the survey, Carrie Lloyd, introduction to psychology instructor, believes that it is a step in the right direction.

“It seems in this case, the benefits to society outweigh any risks that may be involved,” Lloyd said. “We should not leave it up to lawmakers or politicians to decide what services the people that actually live in the community need, and it seems that the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board…is trying to eliminate just that. Surveys tell us what real people need.”

Though some residents may be hesitant to give their health information, Cowen urges members of the community to participate.

“It is important that we know what the needs are of the services, even for those who haven’t used the services before,” Cowen said.