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Our view: Move a win for county

Published: Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

If all goes well, a state-of-the-art building left vacant by last year’s collapse of a major mental health care provider in the county soon will be used again to heal.

Pioneer Center for Human Services is in the process of buying the 41,493-square-foot McHenry building that was occupied by the Family Service and Community Mental Health Center until the agency collapsed in May 2012.

The $2.25 million deal hinges on clearance from engineers. Pioneer CEO Patrick Maynard anticipates the deal will be final within 60 days, and the agency — which is keeping its existing facilities — will slowly move in over a year.

The three-story building comes with furnishings and technology — all for about $56 a square foot, which Maynard deemed an “unbelievable” deal.

Unbelievable might be an understatement: Family Service took out a $5.3 million mortgage in 2006 to build the facility.

Pioneer’s purchase should provide closure from the chaos caused when Family Service shut its doors. It also hopefully will dissipate the community ire raised when Family Service spent millions on the building, deemed by many as too big for the agency and a likely contributor to its financial difficulties.

The building was constructed to help those with mental illnesses. That need didn’t disappear when Family Service closed; instead, it left thousands of people looking for help.

Pioneer saw triple the number of individuals seeking behavioral services, and expanded programs in response. This building will provide space for those to grow.

Many other agencies also stepped up to fill the gap, including Rockford-based Rosecrance Health Network, which provides substance abuse and mental health services.

Rosecrance, the lone tenant in the old Family Service building, will be given notice to leave once Pioneer owns it. The agency opened in McHenry County last year and served 1,307 clients in its first year; staff there estimate they see 100 new clients each month.

Judy Emerson, Rosecrance’s director of communications, said the agency is using the move an as opportunity to find a convenient location for its clients and to expand some services in McHenry County.

Using the full building to provide the mental health services it was intended for is a win for the county. And the expansion of programs to assist some of our most vulnerable is commendable, and a sign these agencies take seriously the responsibility of being a good citizen.

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