McHenry County residents now have more access than ever to mental health support that meets them where they are. A confidential phone app is just the beginning.
Since 2016, McHenry County residents have had a safe, convenient way to access resources for mental health. The McHelp app is a free, anonymous app that allows users to confidentially text or talk to a licensed mental health counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, the McHenry County Mental Health Board, the group behind the app, has relaunched the app to make services even more accessible. The updated, streamlined version’s release coincides with the organization’s three-year strategic initiative, which also launched this year.
“Increasing awareness about the McHelp app is part of our strategic plan,” says Leonetta Rizzi, executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board (MHB).
The McHelp app is a convenient and low-cost alternative for those individuals who lack the financial resources to seek traditional mental health treatment. It’s also an alternative for those who lack a reliable source of transportation or have language barriers. While McHelp is one of many initiatives backed by the MHB, it’s a big part of the board’s long-term strategic plan.
“One of our goals is to increase resources and visibility in general, which includes the awareness of the app,” Rizzi explains.
According to a 2021 McHenry Health Needs Community Study, many residents don’t know where to go for mental health services, and 32% of respondents weren’t aware of their availability. Rizzi hopes the McHelp app provides a more direct means of reaching these residents.
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback stating that teens use the app a lot,” she says, “but it’s for anyone to use.”
Available for download from the Apple Store and Google Play, the McHelp app is just one tool to bring accessible mental health resources to residents of McHenry County.
Established after the passage of the Community Mental Health Act in 1963, the board is one of the oldest of its kind in Illinois. It funds local providers for mental health and substance abuse disorders and provides essential services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
“We try to help each other out and collaborate with other mental health boards throughout Illinois,” says Rizzi.
Since 2020, the MHB has provided funding for 28 agencies and more than 80 programs and services throughout McHenry County. The board’s latest accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services, places it in the top 3% of agencies like it in the U.S.
While its impact is significant, a rise in suicide statistics in McHenry County shows just how much work is left to do. The MHB works with a number of agencies and services to address suicide in McHenry County. This includes a Suicide Prevention Task Force that brings together nearly a dozen local partners. Rizzi hopes these efforts, working in conjunction with the McHelp app, will be a powerful tool to reach even more people who might be in crisis.
“We have a lot of resources that we fund,” she says. “We hope to close these gaps with innovative, quality services.”