McHenry County mental health officials share surviving agency's collapse

CRYSTAL LAKE – Mental health officials agreed: A crisis was averted.

Representatives from agencies that have stepped in to fill gaps in mental health care after the collapse of Family Service of McHenry County discussed Wednesday how an emergency was avoided and how each agency is coping with increased patient volume.

The overwhelming majority of those who spoke at an informational fair said they have been inundated with new patients after Family Service folded in June.

The agencies also said they are committed to working together, turning the tide of a once-divided field.

“We’ve seen a great deal of collaboration between these agencies,” Sandy Lewis, executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board, said after the forum. “That immediate level of collaboration is something really new.”

Agencies discussing and working with one another so that residents with mental or behavioral health diagnoses don’t fall through the cracks probably would not have occurred in such quick fashion without a crisis, Lewis said.

At one time, Lewis warned providers not to take on too much too soon, lest they risk the same fate as Family Service. On Wednesday, she praised them for their commitment.

“I think the providers do a very good job making their own determination how many clients they can take on,” she said.

For its part, the taxpayer-funded Mental Health Board redirected more than $1 million in funding to other agencies that picked up where Family Service left off.

The forum also served as a way to identify potential gaps that may be present. For example, many of the agencies do not have services that cater to the bilingual community. Neither Rosecrance nor Pioneer Center, which have taken the largest number of Family Service patients, has mental health staff who are bilingual.

The McHenry Community Health Center, where former Family Service psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth McMasters practices, has an extensive bilingual staff, although McMasters is not.

Since taking on the job there seven weeks ago, McMasters has seen 650 appointments and 410 unduplicated patients, the agency said.

The Mental Health Board gave Greater Elgin Family Care Center $492,577 to expand its psychiatric services through McHenry Community Health, including hiring McMasters and nursing staff to assist her.

Pioneer Center for Human Services has tripled its patient volume this summer, the agency’s Director of Admissions, Sandy Ryndak, said.

Pioneer’s admissions rose to 150 last month from a more-typical 40 to 60 new patients a month before the collapse of Family Service. There is a waiting list of up to six week for some of its programs, the agency said.

Pioneer Center recently became licensed to offer adult substance abuse services.

Thresholds has more than doubled its client base from 65 clients to 165, Program Director Art Krzyzanowski said.

Rosecrance McHenry County, operating out the former Family Service building at 4100 Veterans Parkway in McHenry, is up to 305 clients, Director Chris Gleason said. About 44 percent of those are former Family Service clients, he said.

Representatives from Family Alliance and Proactive Behavioral Health Services also spoke at the forum.

Transitioning to a new provider:

• Ask for a specific referral to a provider or agency.

• Ask for help setting up the first meeting.

• If you are a former Family Service client, you can get a copy of your medical record by calling Cathy Garrey at 815-455-2828.

• If you need help with your prescription, call the QoL pharmacy on Veterans Parkway in McHenry at 815-344-3263.

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