Thursday, May 31, 2012
Mental Health Board Hopes To Preserve Family Service Core
The Mental Health Board called Thursday's special session after word began to leak out Friday that a plan for downstate North Central Behavioral Health System to take over the financially troubled Family Service Center had fallen through. County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, one of eight County Board members at the meeting, called it a crisis |Thursday and worried that other agencies might be "on the edge" of similar collapse.
Family Service, helping an average 6,000 McHenry County residents a year, operated largely on loans from the Mental Health Board for more than a year while the State's Department of Human Services fell further and further behind on service payments. Family Service Executive Director Lori Nelson told FEN Thursday she'd received verbal and written assurances from the State divisions of Mental Health and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse that the agency's State contracts would be transferred to LaSalle-based North Central but last week someone somewhere at Human Services reneged and the group withdrew.
Lewis said the immediate goal was to find a way to continue treatment for Family Service's 2,000 current patients. The Mental Health Board OK'ed a vague plan for other agencies and the Mental Health Board itself to hire Family Service's core professional and semi-professional staff before they're lost to pink slips in the next four weeks. They left it to Lewis to find out who can do what and who's willing to do it.
Meanwhile, Lewis also called for a full-court press on local legislators to make sure over $1 million in State funding earmarked for Family Services doesn't go somewhere while the Mental Health Board tries to cobble together something from the wreckage. "We need to advocate for that to remain here," she said.
District 6 County Member Ersel Schuster complained the County Board had been "blindsided" by Family Service's collapse and called for lots better information. Koehler said he'd appoint a task force to examine all the county's public mental health providers' prospects for the next three years. He said the panel probably won't be able to begin for at least a month, though.
In the pic: About 120 people jammed McHenry County's Mental Health Board chambers Wednesday to hear what it planned to do about the collapse of the Family Service agency.