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Mental health center celebrates $1.2M grant

Wed, Jan 2, 2013

Holding the pieces of Turning Points mission as it is reassembled into a vision that includes integrated health services are (L to R): State Rep. Lou Lang, CEO Ann Fisher Raney, State Sen. Ira Silverstein, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, State Rep. Daniel Biss, North Suburban Healthcare Foundation Vice Chair Donald P. Perille and Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen. Photo by Mitchell Canoff.

Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center CEO Ann Fisher Raney, officers and staff hosted a December 7 luncheon for local community leaders and elected representatives to celebrate the awarding of a $1.2 million grant from the North Suburban Healthcare Foundation. The event was in the building adjacent to Turning Point’s current space at 8324 Skokie Blvd., which it purchased thanks to the grant.

The outpatient mental health center has now doubled its office space to 40,000 square feet without incurring any new debt and will expand services through creation of an integrative health center. This health center could include expanded children’s services, an organization for people with mental illness and also a substance abuse counseling provider, Fisher Raney said in a telephone interview.

“It’s really a consortium of like-minded organizations who could cross-train each other, teach each other what they know, write grants together,” she said. Additional “back office savings” could come from buying supplies together or using common human resources.

“My far out dream is to have dentists and physicians and podiatrists,” Fisher Raney added, “because people who have limited access to medical care often do not have access to dental care and having no dental care is a huge problem to physical health and mental health.”

Turning Point could also use the space to expand its own mental health services: individual, family and group therapy, psychiatric evaluation and medication monitoring, case management, 24/7 crisis response, and an adult residential living program. Clients using these services can be dealing with day-to-day stressors such as job loss or divorce, or have varying degrees of mental illness that may lead to people being unable to work or find a home, Fisher Raney said.

Last year, Turning Point served 1,525 clients, not counting those in its 24/7 emergency crisis response program. More than 85 percent of people served have incomes below poverty guidelines. Its clients come from 42 communities including Skokie, Evanston, Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Wilmette, and increasingly in the past year, from Chicago, according to spokesperson Stephanie Kulke, quoting Turning Point Chief Financial Officer Marsha Hahn.

One of its latest programs is The Living Room at Turning Point, which opened in September 2011. It is a nonclinical, more welcoming– and more cost-effective — space than a hospital emergency room for people experiencing psychiatric emergencies, Fisher Raney said. People who use this facility are called “guests,” and they are given clinical and physical assessments, a healthy snack, discussion on how they are feeling and measures to take to feel healthier.

“The heart and soul of the Living Room is three peer counselors who are dealing with mental health issues themselves who talk to them about what works,” she said. “The guests have an opportunity to settle down, and not in the hullabaloo of an emergency room where there are a lot of things going on that can add to the stress of a person in that situation.”

In addition, ER treatment for psychiatric issues is far more expensive, she said. In its first year, 228 Living Room visits resulted in 15 ER referrals (a 93 percent deflection rate) and $500,000 savings in state health care costs. The Living Room is open for five hours three days a week (3 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday). The hours of operation are based on data gathered by Turning Point staff as the official Department of Mental Health emergency teams for Niles, Northfield and New Trier Townships, which showed these were the most important times for calls, Fisher Raney said.

“It’s hard for communities to acclimate to three days a week, we would far prefer for it to be seven days a week,” Fisher Raney said. The seed money for the program was based on a state grant that was renewed this year through the fiscal year ending June 30 and Turning Point is looking at expanding it with other funds.

Written by Suzanne Hanney,
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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