All on deck needed to tackle mental health crisis

The recent email that Eric Ward and his wife sent “mostly to friends and family” began with some kind of apology.

Noting how many people are likely to receive money at this time of year from nonprofits that are struggling to keep up due to limited fundraising opportunities, Ward was quick to assure that the family counseling service, where he is executive director, is financially strong.

But then he and his wife Kelly asked for help anyway.

While this Aurora-area nonprofit counseling agency might be “comforting financially” during these trying times, “our community, on the other hand, isn’t doing so well,” Ward wrote.

The family counseling service's executive director, Eric Ward, said people are seeking mental health care more than ever.

People are seeking mental health care more than ever, he continued. In particular, “the number of parents contacting us for help with their children and teenagers has exploded”, to the point that the family counseling service for the first time had to open a waiting list which continues to grow. lengthen.

At one point earlier this year, there were more than 380 people on that list, Ward told me, a number that fluctuates but tends to increase at this time of year with the kids back at school. school and growing emotional problems.

And the only way to address this unprecedented onslaught, he insisted, is to hire more therapists, social workers, case managers and psychiatric drug providers.

Unfortunately, the start-up costs of hiring, training, and orientation can get expensive. That’s why the Wards decided to create an online fundraiser to help achieve the goal of adding five staff members.

About 60% of new clients come to FCS with anxiety issues, which is unsurprising considering how the pandemic has raised fears while isolating people from the support systems we all should be able to rely on. count, especially during the crisis. And those tough times have only continued with inflation and other tough economic factors affecting jobs, housing, transportation and food.

“We don’t know what next year will look like, but one thing is certain, societal issues will not improve,” Ward warned. And unless the economy improves, “there is impending doom brewing.”

It’s no wonder, then, that Michael Isaacson has declared behavioral health “my top priority” as the new executive director of the Kane County Health Department.

Michael Isaacson, executive director of the Kane County Health Department.

“More and more people are struggling, younger and younger children are having problems, and we are seeing more acute and more serious problems,” he told me, noting the latest comprehensive health assessment. community, which is carried out every three years with providers that include schools, hospitals and police departments, show that mental health is the number one health concern.

And the number one need for providers, he added, is the staff needed to deal with those growing waiting lists.

It’s not that there’s a shortage of behavioral health specialists, both experts agree. But “if we’re going to keep people from leaving for the most lucrative private practices, we have to pay competitive benefits,” Ward said. “And that’s a priority for us because staff turnover is difficult for patients who lose confidence when we have to start over.”

In addition to this recent fundraising effort, the Family Counseling Service has taken steps to address the issue, including establishing its Community Health Academy which offers in-house training and is “going well,” Ward said.

In addition, $3 million in county grants were awarded to a partnership of what Isaacson describes as “mental health and addiction safety net providers.” These include Family Counseling Service, Mutual Ground, Association for Individual Development, TriCity Family Services, Elgin Family Services Association and Ecker Center for Behavioral Health.

Working in nonprofits that often involve acute cases, home visits and off-hours is a challenge, Isaacson insisted. And in order to serve all residents, including those from minorities and other vulnerable populations, “we must have the resources to staff these organizations.”

All of these issues have contributed to the upcoming launch of “Thrive by 2025,” a comprehensive Kane County plan that focuses on a “shared vision” and “coordinated effort” among schools, religious and medical communities, law enforcement the order, employers and providers, because “This problem does not fall on any of us”, insisted Isaacson.

It’s an all-out effort, he insists, that will be needed to tackle a behavioral health crisis that affects so many, including the more affluent white community that is experiencing rising rates of suicide. and drug overdoses.

“We know a lot of people are hurting,” Isaacson said. “No matter where you live, it can impact your family.”

Leave a Comment