Ground has been broken, and a planned opening in early 2019 is on the horizon. A partnership between Silver Cross Hospital and US Health Vest to build a new 100 bed behavioral health hospital on the Silver Cross Campus is now in progress.
When this project was first announced back in January of this year; Ruth Colby, who has now succeeded Paul Pawlak as Silver Cross Hospital CEO, remembered reading about US Health Vest in Crain’s Chicago Business. She then telephoned US Health Vest CEO Dr. Richard Kresch at their corporate headquarters about building a facility in Will County. After a ‘yes we’re interested’ from Dr. Kresch and approval from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, the idea became a reality.
During the October 25th groundbreaking ceremony, Colby again mentioned that the Will County MAPP (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships) Collaborative deserves credit for bringing the issue of behavioral health services to the table and keeping it there.
“The number one issue,” Colby recalled, “was always mental health and substance use services. And while we’ve all heard the phrase ‘it takes a Village,’ this time it took the passion of both a county and a village: Will County and New Lenox.”
County Executive Larry Walsh emphasized at the groundbreaking that “this is not a solution to the problem, but a great step forward. You have all these local organizations and the Will County Health Department doing all they can, but with less and less funding each year. We needed to do something in Will County to bring residents these needs and services.”
An often mentioned major reason for the need for Silver Oaks Hospital is the fact that the Tinley Park Mental Health Center closed back in 2012. Since then, with ten beds or less often available locally, many behavioral health patients from the Will County area have needed to be transferred north, to out of county facilities in Chicago or the suburbs. One person who has seen this problem up close is Dr. Scott DuBois, Adult Mental Health Program Manager for the Will County Health Department.
“County Executive Walsh is exactly right,” stated Dr. DuBois, “when he says that this is just a major step forward instead of a solution. We need to get more county and community-based behavioral health services to compliment what Silver Oaks Hospital will bring. And having these beds in Will County will get families more involved in the day-to-day care process.”
Will County Health Department Child and Adolescents Programming Manager Michelle Zambrano has stated that keeping the families involved will be a huge difference. She mentioned a rather new initiative in Illinois called the Specialized Family Support Program. “When the patient is a child and it’s time for them to be sent home,” Zambrano explained, “the family might say, ‘we are not comfortable with him or her at home. We have other children and we are worried.’ And this is where children can end up in the DCFS foster care system if their families do not want them coming home.”
The Specialized Family Support System, however, acts as a transition for families with these concerns; as case workers are able to visit the released child at home and monitor the situation. Zambrano says families will probably be more encouraged to go that route once Silver Oaks Hospital is up and running. “I can definitely see that being a factor. If a family can visit their child more often, and then actually see progress and have hope, it can make a huge difference.”
New Lenox mayor Tim Baldermann also spoke at the groundbreaking about the reality of the need for facilities like Silver Oaks Hospital. “You cannot bury your head in the sand. Your community’s economic status does not matter. Mental health and substance use issues affect every demographic. When I was in law enforcement, I saw many people with these issues being incarcerated. That’s wrong. It’s facilities like this that are very much needed.”
Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow echoed Mayor Baldermann’s thoughts about having the right facilities and programs nearby. “After Tinley Park closed,” Glasgow recalled, “there was a time when it seemed the Will County Jail was becoming a mental health hospital. Here we were, a county of 700,000-plus, and we didn’t have adequate facilities. It’s wonderful that Silver Cross is taking this step. Then you have US Health Vest’s CEO talking about a sliding scale and making sure all are cared for. That’s wonderful.”
And indeed, when US Health Vest CEO Dr. Richard Kresch took the microphone at the groundbreaking, he firmly stated that “we have spent as much time as we can talking, listening, and learning about Will County. We will be accepting all patients who qualify for treatment. No patient will be turned away due to inability to pay.”
The new Silver Oaks Hospital 100-bed facility, which will replace the current 20 bed Acute Mental Illness unit at Silver Cross Hospital, is scheduled for completion in early 2019.
CLICK ON VIDEOS: Silver Cross Hospital CEO Ruth Colby discusses how the Silver Oaks Hospital came about; and local officials join Silver Cross and U S Health Vest personnel for official groundbreaking.