Elgin’s Ecker Center set to take over Larkin Center adult services
By Janelle Walker For Sun-Times Media October 21, 2013 4:48PM
Lawrence Hall to take over Rakow School
Chicago-based Lawrence Hall Youth Services, which has agreed to take over some of the Larkin Center programming including four of its youth group homes, confirmed late Monday that it will also operate the Rakow Center School at 515 Sports Way, Elgin.
“On Friday ... LHYS was asked to ensure the seamless delivery of educational services to the students attending the therapeutic day school in Elgin,” said Colette Bradley, a spokesperson for Lawrence Hall.
“Students’ education and academic routine will not be interrupted during this transition, and services will be provided by many of the familiar faces that they have seen since their arrival at the school,” she said.
Lawrence Hall has its own special education school and has been recognized as a School of Excellence by the National Association of Special Education Teachers for three consecutive years, she said.
“We look forward to bringing our experience and expertise to the Elgin community to meet the special education needs of local students,” Bradley added.
— Janelle Walker
Updated: November 23, 2013 6:24AM
ELGIN — The 24 adults who were living in housing provided through programs by the now-closed Larkin Center are being reinterviewed and diagnosed by staff at the Ecker Center for Mental Health, director Karen Beyer said Monday.
“We are working on implementing the people becoming our responsibility,” Beyer said Monday. “It is huge.”
The Larkin Center informed the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on Oct. 11 of its intent to close as of Friday, citing financial difficulty. Staff was told of the decision Tuesday, and an announcement was made to the public Wednesday.
Beyer received a call from her staff and state agencies on Thursday asking if Ecker could take over programming offered by the Larkin Center to adult clients, she said.
Those adult programs serve “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,” according to the Larkin Center’s website.
One program is funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and one through the state Department of Human Services. Ecker will take over both programs, Beyer said.
“This is exactly what we do” with its own housing programs for people with mental illness, Beyer said.
The Ecker Center actually helped the Larkin Center get the HUD grant to offer the programs six or so years ago, she added.
Beyer is also the former director of the Larkin Center, having moved over to the Ecker Center before that program was added.
“We have to interview (the clients), and we have to open them with the agency,” she said, meaning open new files and treat them as new clients for the agency, even though services will not change for them. “We will interview and diagnose them again.”
The clients are served either in small group homes or in apartments in the area, Beyer said.
“They are adults, over the age of 18,” who, for many, began as youth Larkin Center clients in one of the group homes, Beyer added.
The program offered support to children when they “aged out” of the Department of Children and Family Services programs.
She is still getting information about clients but believes older residents in the adult programs were homeless people with mental illness who needed housing, Beyer said.
She is unsure of the top age range for those clients, she said. “I am guessing from being people with severe mental illness … they are not a lot older than late middle age. People with mental illness die 25 years younger than the general population,” Beyer said.
The Larkin Center’s adult clients were either receiving mental health psychiatric care from the Ecker Center doctors or through its own physicians, Beyer added. Those services will continue, as will any of the programs and medical services they previously received.
She is concerned that more agencies providing services for the mentally ill will continue to close, Beyer said.
“Mental health and social agencies are sporadically shutting down,” Beyer said. “The need is expanding, and the resources are contracting. Larkin was caught in the middle of that.”
The Cook County Jail is one of the largest mental health service providers in the country now. Beyer called the jail “one of the three biggies” for services.
Beds at state mental health hospitals have been closing for years, and “it is reaching a crisis proportion now,” she added.
Rather than bill the state directly for services, Beyer and the Ecker Center are working with eight separate managed care companies acting as health insurance agencies. That means more preauthorization for services for those clients but also better information technology programs for mental health clients.
In the meantime, however, those caught without insurance are suffering.
Someone in a mental health crisis can end up sitting in an emergency room for two days, waiting for a bed to open in a state hospital, Beyer said.
The Affordable Care Act may help that situation in Illinois, Beyer said. Many of those mental health sufferers may be eligible for expanded Medicaid and have services paid for through the federal government through 2020, Beyer said.