Kane County mental health providers detail crisis-level waiting lists

 
 
Posted10/6/2021 5:30 AM

More than a dozen mental health service providers in Kane County detailed an unprecedented wave of local people needing counseling, addiction treatment and suicide prevention services Tuesday night.

Calling it a "companion crisis" to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers ranging from the Elgin-based Association for Individual Development to the Aurora-based Gateway foundation said they have waiting lists as long as eight months and more than 100 people deep. And their workers are quitting. They gathered Tuesday in hopes of getting some of the $103 million in federal American Rescue Plan money Kane County will receive.

 

So far, county officials have agreed to make $4 million available within the next couple of months to organizations to address mental health needs spawned or intensified by the pandemic.

"I've been in this business for more than 25 years, and I've never had a waitlist as large as the waitlist we have now," said Laura Poss, the executive director of Geneva-based TriCity Family Services. There are 130 people awaiting the family-based counseling services her organization provides.

"We are seeing a desperation in the clients that are coming to us like I've never seen before," Poss continued. "We are the first responders to what has clearly become a mental health crisis, not just nationally, but in our community as well."

Poss, and nearly all the other service providers, said the caseload is taking a toll on workers that is resulting in them leaving for better-paid jobs with lower stress levels. The main request the providers made Tuesday was for help with operating funds to hire new workers, and provide raises and bonuses for the professionals they still have.

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Association President Lore Baker said she has nearly four times as many vacant positions as she usually has. She needs to fill more than 100 positions to address the 223 people waiting for counseling and the surging number of people experiencing housing instability that could put them on the streets.

"Right now we are unable to do much more than ensure safety for the people we serve and support because we don't have enough staff," Baker said.

After hearing the need, Kane County Board Member Jarett Sanchez said it's clear the $4 million the county is making available now won't solve all the problems. He asked the organizations to be patient with the county as it works through the best ways to use the entire $103 million.

"This pilot program is a way to get money out there more quickly as we go through our deliberative process," Sanchez said. "The need is great out there. I'm glad we at least have this going out in the short term."

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