Rosecrance buys former Advantage Group building

A Rockford-based mental health system is opening a new office next week in the Crystal Lake building formerly owned by a shuttered substance abuse agency.

Rosecrance Health System announced Thursday that it bought and is in the process of occupying the former home of The Advantage Group. It will be Rosecrance’s second McHenry County site – it has an office in McHenry, also on the site of a failed local social service agency, although Rosecrance is in the process of relocating nearby.

Rosecrance bought the TAG building at 422 Tracy Court on Dec. 19 for $850,000. While both the Crystal Lake and McHenry offices will offer integrated behavioral health services of all sorts, spokeswoman Judy Emerson said Rosecrance plans to expand local programming to serve young adults needing substance abuse treatment – a need TAG addressed for 27 years before closing last October.

“[The purchase] gives us the ability to serve a greater population, and moving toward Crystal Lake opens up the rest of the county and brings [services] a little bit closer to people,” Rosecrance McHenry County Director Chris Gleason said.

Emerson said Rosecrance looked at a number of area buildings before choosing the new locations.

The TAG building purchase by Rosecrance could help bring some stability to a tumultuous 18 months for county mental health service agencies, marked by the closings of two longtime providers and changing times at the Mental Health Board, a government body that collects a property tax to help fund them.

Rosecrance’s dealings in McHenry County began in June 2012 to help fill the void created when Family Service and Community Mental Health Center closed after 50 years. Formerly the oldest and the largest county mental health agency, Family Service collapsed under debt created by chronically late state aid payments and a $5.3 million mortgage taken out in 2006 to build a 40,000-square-foot, three-story building in McHenry.

Rosecrance has leased space at Family Service’s former 4100 Veterans Parkway building, but is relocating several minutes away to 4501 Prime Parkway.

McHenry-based Pioneer Center for Human Services, the county’s largest social service agency, bought the former Family Service building last year for a reported $2.25 million to expand its offerings. Gleason said Rosecrance will relocate by February, and that the move will not interrupt services.

The Advantage Group also closed over funding woes. The agency lost its Mental Health Board funding in 2012 after an audit revealed what the board called numerous fiscal irregularities. The Advantage Group took the Mental Health Board to federal court, alleging the board was trying to drive it out of existence to give its funding to agencies it preferred, but the judge dismissed the lawsuit last April.

The Mental Health Board, the makeup of which has almost completely changed over the past year, authorized giving TAG a $49,000 emergency loan in September to keep it afloat, but TAG abruptly withdrew its request. It was later revealed that TAG was asked to do so over allegations it violated its tax-exempt status by endorsing political candidates on its Facebook page and allowing a candidate to use the building for a luncheon.

New Mental Health Board members, selected for the most part by a reform-minded McHenry County Board committee, are grappling with shrinking revenues that have forced staff cuts long sought by critics who have alleged that past members allowed the agency to become a top-heavy bureaucracy that spent too much on administration, overhead and a large headquarters it did not need.

Rosecrance received $130,383 from the Mental Health Board in 2012, according to the board’s most recent annual report. The funds go solely to the firm’s McHenry County operations.

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