Most children served by Larkin Center to stay put during transition
BY JANELLE WALKER For Sun-Times Media October 18, 2013 4:38PM
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:44AM
ELGIN — The 35 children now living at one of the Larkin Center’s group homes will either stay at the facility they currently live in or be transferred to a Lawrence Hall Youth Services facility, a spokesperson with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said Friday.
Adults now receiving housing services through the Larkin Center will have a new, locally-operated programming “home” while being able to stay in the apartments they are now in, officials added.
The Larkin Center informed the Illinois agency on Oct. 11 of its intent to close as of Friday, citing financial difficulty. Staff members were told of the decision Tuesday, and a public announcement was made Wednesday.
The center contracted with DCFS for 42 youth beds, department spokeswoman Karen Hawkins said. The residential youth program serves 8- to 18-year-olds experiencing emotional and/or behavioral challenges.
The Chicago-based organization Lawrence Hall, at the request of DCFS, has agreed to assume the residential youth programming provided by the Larkin Center.
Lawrence Hall has negotiated to lease and manage the programs for four of Larkin’s group homes. The Larkin Center staff and children will, for the most part, stay in place, Hawkins said.
“Most of the Larkin staff has been hired by Lawrence Hall,” she said.
Of the 35 children living in Elgin group homes “12 will go to a Lawrence Hall unit with the same staff that had taken care of them at Larkin,” Hawkins said.
All DCFS contracts with the Larkin Center were terminated as of Friday, and new contracts with Lawrence Hall were initiated “so there is no break in services for children,” she added.
Adult programs funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services will be taken over by the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin, said State Rep. Keith Farnham, D-Elgin. He has been working with both agencies and the state agency on the transition, Farnham said.
According to the Larkin Center’s website, its adult programs — some of which will transition to the Ecker Center — are “for the chronic mentally ill seeking enhanced independent living skills.”
Those adult program “serves adults with mental disabilities between the ages of 17 and 21 who are transitioning out of school and into society,” as well as a separate program with shared apartments “for more advanced clients ages 18 to 60-plus.”
One program is funded by Housing and Urban Development, and one through the Department of Humas Services. Which of those programs would be taken over by the Ecker Center was not immediately clear. Ecker Center director Karen Beyer was out of town Friday and unable to comment on the changes.
“The programs will stay seamless,” for those in the adult programs, Farnham said.
Kelly Jakubek, communications manager at the Department of Human Services, said in a statement that the department is “working with the Larkin Center and other agencies to develop a transition plan to ensure that the individuals receiving housing and support services funded by DHS continue uninterrupted through this transition. It is premature to discuss the specifics as we are still working out the details of the contract, our main priority is making sure that the affected individuals continue to receive the housing and support services they need. No changes will be made to their housing and support services in the interim.”
It was that department that suggested the Ecker Center take over some of the adults services, Farnham said.
The Ecker Center, with offices at 1845 Grandstand Place, Elgin, already provides some housing services for adults with mental health needs.
“The crisis residential program is a short-term residence for adults in psychiatric crisis. The program provides around-the-clock therapeutic support services,” the Ecker Center website states.
“The Ecker Center has several other residential options that provide the support and skill building that adults with mental illness need in order to move to more independent living situations. Staff members work with residents on personal finance budgeting skills, house-keeping skills, medication management, and community living. Many of our residential programs provide on-site supervision,” according to its online profile.
The apartment leases for adults in that program are good through the end of the month, and staff now living with those clients will remain on site, Farnham said.
“They did make sure there are no breaks,” in services, he said.
By the end of the month, all of the programs, including new contracts and leases, should be confirmed, he said.