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Regional mental health agencies fill Family Service gap in McHenry County

Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Northwest Herald file photo)
Former Family Service building on Veterans Parkway in McHenry.

When Family Service and Community Mental Health Center closed last year, it left some 6,000 people looking for help.

Family Service had to close its doors because of financial issues facing the agency. The facility had about $1 million in state contracts and late Medicaid payments contributing to its shortfall.

The collapse of the county’s oldest and largest mental health agency led to other agencies – such as Rosecrance, Greater Elgin Family Care Center’s McHenry location, and Thresholds, among others – stepping up to fill the need, said Todd Schroll, interim executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

“That was a pretty dramatic time for our local system,” Schroll said. “I think our local partners stepped up very well to figure out how to connect with our clients who were displaced by that closure.”

Schroll said the board believes individuals who were served by Family Service have either found services elsewhere — or are still disconnected and waiting to re-enter the system. The second thought is a concern, he said, because often they wait until there is a crisis to seek help.

Because of the closure, the McHenry County Mental Health Board increased its monitoring of wait lists, capacity of organizations and reallocated funding.

“We know after Family Service closed, we did lose some psychiatrists, and the capacity shifted,” Schroll said. “Some left the county, some began working for other organizations.”

At Pioneer Center for Human Services, the Behavioral Health Services and Counseling division went from having 1,000 clients to 4,200 clients in the last year, said Patrick Maynard, the president and CEO of the social service agency.

Pioneer also had to hire more therapists and counselors, including at least 10 people from Family Service, to serve the additional clients, Maynard said.

“We have the same mission,” Maynard said. “There was demand from our clients and we have to respond.”

The closure of Family Service also led to more people going to emergency rooms, according to Centegra.

The hospital system also saw a jump in calls to the crisis line it manages. There were 1,397 calls in June 2012, and it jumped to 2,018 a month later. Family Service closed in late June 2012.

Centegra had to hire an additional person to assist in answering the line because the higher rate persisted.

“We saw more patients seeking services because a lifeline was broken,” said Sheila Senn, the vice president and site administrator for Centegra Hospital-Woodstock.

Before it closed, Family Service did try to find a way to stay open. It had an agreement with LaSalle-based North Central Behavioral Health System to take over operations, but that fell through after one month. The Mental Health Board also fronted the agency more than $1.4 million to cover payroll and other expenses as Family Service’s funding sources dried up.

Maynard said stepping up was just part of the social service agencies roles and responsibility to the community.

“This community was in crisis,” he said. “We’re part of the support system. We needed to step up to the plate.”

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