Crisis treatment facility to help with mental health/drug issues

The DuPage County Board of Directors this week unanimously approved $25.8 million in funding to build the DuPage County Crisis Recovery Center in Wheaton.

When completed in 2025, the 33,000-square-foot facility will provide a place to treat people who are in emergency situations related to their mental health and/or substance addictions, officials said.

“The Crisis Recovery Center will create a new path for crisis services, ensuring that individuals experiencing a mental health and/or substance use crisis receive immediate help, the right level of support and linkage to the appropriate treatment environment,” said the DuPage County Health Department executive director Karen Ayala said in a statement.

Obtaining approval for the facility at Tuesday’s meeting was one of the latest actions taken under Ayala’s leadership. She retired this week after working for the health department for 16 years, the last 10 of which as its director.

She told board members that her tenure at DuPage County was “the honor of her life.”

As proposed by Ayala and the Department of Health, the county board approved a funding plan that would provide the crisis center with $21.77 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and $5.5 million from the Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan financed by the state.

“Investing these funds in expanding access to crisis behavioral health services will have a lasting impact on our community and improve the health and well-being of DuPage County residents,” said Sam Tornatore, county board member and president of the DuPage County Board of Health a statement.

With funding now in place, construction is expected to begin next year. The Department of Health estimates that the facility will require $5.5 million to $6 million annually to operate, including staffing, security, utilities and general maintenance.

It will be connected to the Linda A. Kurzawa Community Center at 115 N. County Farm Road, a site chosen for its central location in the county. The health department will work with the county sheriff’s office, local police departments and medical facilities to transport patients for treatment, officials said.

“We are very interested in working with partners to address the challenge of transportation in DuPage County in general specifically for this project,” said Adam Forker, new executive director of the Department of Health, after the meeting.

While details of how law enforcement and emergency medical professionals will interact with the center are still being debated, most patients are expected to either come to the facility alone or be brought along by family, friends or neighbors, Forker said.

Patients receive evaluations, safety risk assessments, psychologist counseling, alcohol and/or drug withdrawal support, and other support options. Stays are short-term to temporarily relieve the crisis and establish a long-term recovery or treatment plan.

In a June 12 presentation, Health Department officials said the facility should take some of the pressure off prisons and hospitals that don’t have the staff or resources to properly treat patients experiencing a behavioral crisis.

Kenneth Popejoy, Chief Justice of the 18th Circuit Court, told the panel he was a strong supporter of the plan.

“From a civil law standpoint, far fewer guardianships will be needed, far fewer mental health hearings will be needed,” Popejoy said. “From a criminal perspective, the Mental Health Court will offer great support with protection orders, domestic violence issues and the like.

“This will help ensure that mental health professionals continue to do what is necessary for those with those needs, rather than the judges and jailers who do not have the necessary experience to provide assistance to these individuals. “

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