For about a year, Evanston’s elected officials have been working to address health care professionals’ concerns about the city’s lack of adequate mental health resources.
Although Monday marked World Mental Health Day, Patti Capouch, chief executive officer at Impact Behavioral Health Partners, said there still aren’t enough options available to those experiencing mental health crises in Evanston.
“There is a transition … with the absence of a city manager and new council members,” she said. “The city frankly has not consistently funded mental health services.”
However, Capouch said mental health resources have become a growing priority for the City Council in recent months. Last spring, Evanston allocated $900,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for a Living Room, a free resource center for adults experiencing mental health crises.
But a fully functional one Living room is far from opening.
“I think they have requests for proposals that are due this month and that’s something we’ve been missing,” Capouch said. “I’m excited to see that they’re finally looking to restore some services that may have been lost with some funding decisions.”
In August, the Trilogy Behavioral Health Care crisis response program began operating full time, meaning Illinois residents can access a toll-free mobile crisis line at any time of the day. Evanston invested in the program, which maintains a relationship with the Evanston Police Department.
In Evanston’s the last meeting of the Municipal CouncilTrilogy officials presented the progress, successes and challenges of the program.
“We offer mobile response any time of day, any day of the year,” Chris Mayer, clinical director of crisis services with Trilogy Behavioral Health, the meeting said. “Our partnership (with EPD), I believe, is strong … they have the highest commitment of any police agency.”
Some community members have expressed concern that police may respond to excessive calls at Trilogy, which may further escalate certain situations and ultimately not serve the person in crisis.
Although emergency services like Living Room and Trilogy are essential, Capouch said it’s also important that Evanston residents have access to more counseling and long-term therapy options.
Some mental care agencies in Evanston have waiting lists of 200 to 300 people, she said, so it’s important for the city to invest in systems that track immediate care. Capouch said she works in providing long-term care for her clients at Impact Behavioral Health Partners.
“It’s very difficult for people who need therapy to get it,” Capouch said. “We look at the participants and how we can help them live independently.”
Mental health care providers at Impact work to understand their clients’ long-term goals, Capouch said. Continued investment in long-term mental health care can make a big difference in the city, she added.
The city currently has a contract with AMITA Health St. Hospital to provide free support, education and advice. She has also touted additional resources including Call 4 Calm, a free text line for emotional support, as well as forththefrontlines.org, a website for health care professionals and essential workers.
However, most of these resources do not serve children experiencing mental health crises. Diana Samano, a social worker at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, said the pandemic has largely increased anxiety among children.
“They see a lot of people in public wearing masks and they’re not used to it,” she said. “You have to calm them down.”
North Shore Pediatric Therapy works directly with children dealing with mental health concerns and refers patients to other services such as speech therapy or occupational therapy. But the program does not take Medicaid and only works with certain insurance policies, Samano said.
Still, Capouch said she feels hopeful about the future of mental health care investments in the city. She worked with a coalition of health care providers to highlight the importance of mental health at the start of the pandemic, and said the city has strengthened its commitment to resources since then.
“We wanted to come together to make sure we were helping Evanston residents connect to services,” she said. “The pandemic has really brought mental health to the fore, … Mental health is essential.”
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]
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