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Crisis calls increase in McHenry County following agency's closure

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County’s round-the-clock crisis lines have been ringing off the hook this past week.

While the boost in crisis calls coincides with the closure of Family Service and Community Mental Health Center, officials at the McHenry County Crisis Program say it’s too early to tell whether the agency’s collapse was the catalyst.

Family Service officially closed June 30.

“We are seeing an increase this week, and a really large increase of on-site [visits] in the past couple of days,” McHenry County Crisis Program manager Astrid Larsen said Friday.

The program sends counselors to on-site or at-home visits for calls that are severe or threatening. The agency averages about 325 on-site calls a month, Larsen said.

The McHenry County Crisis Program has logged 1,650 crisis calls in June. In May, there were 1,100 calls. The July figures were not made available.

The increase is nothing new.

The program has seen a steady increase in calls over the past two years, Larsen said.

What’s troubling for local mental health advocates is the gravity of those calls. In the past, the calls were shorter and counselors most often referred callers to other mental health care providers. The calls now are becoming increasingly critical.

“While they are increasing, our calls are actually becoming more chronic and more severe,” Larsen said. “More and more of those calls are turning into an on-site crisis visit.”

The emotional toll that Family Service’s collapse may have on its clients is yet to be seen.

“I suspect that once people begin to show up and realize the building is closed, and they don’t know where to go, that’s when it will be a crisis situation for them,” said Sandy Lewis, McHenry County Mental Health Board executive director.

Rockford-based Rosecrance will cover the majority of Family Service’s former clients. Rosecrance McHenry County saw its first clients at the former Family Service building Thursday.

“Rosecrance was able to mobilize so quickly and really able to fill the gaps,” Larsen said. “We thought we were going to be left without service come Monday, and that simply wasn’t the case.”

Rosecrance and the other local and regional providers that absorbed former Family Service clients, as well as the Mental Health Board that acted quickly to shuffle Family Service’s funding to other providers, are credited with slowing the crisis calls.

“We’re all kind of taken aback,” Susan Krause of Pioneer Center for Human Services said. “We really expected a crisis and, knock on wood, we haven’t see that kind of crisis response.”

McHenry County Crisis Program

The McHenry County crisis line can be reached 24 hours a day at 800-892-8900.

YSB opens drop-in crisis center

Youth Service Bureau, a division of Pioneer Center, has opened a drop-in crisis center at its Woodstock location. The center is staffed by a McHenry County Crisis Program counselor. The drop-in center “was designed as a stopgap measure” for an anticipated increase in crisis calls.

The drop-in center has seen only one client since it opened last week, but officials say it is too early to discontinue the service.

The drop-in center is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at 101 S. Jefferson St. Clients are urged to enter through the double doors on the south side of the building.

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