The Daily Herald from Arlington Heights, Illinois on March 8, 2008 · Page 302
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The Daily Herald from Arlington Heights, Illinois · Page 302

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Arlington Heights, Illinois
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Saturday, March 8, 2008
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Page 302
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SAH RDAY. MARCH 8. 2(108 Metropolitan Chicago DAILY HERALD .SECTION 1 PAGE 13 *IC Good morning Waiting for mental health funding sure can cause anxiety Two days before the fatal shootings at Northern Illinois University, our state's mental health advocates urged the state to release money to extend mental health services to nearly 17,000 people — including young people struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse. We are still waiting. And it's not as if we can drag our feet. The National Alliance for the Mentally 111 gave Illinois a grade of F when it comes to treating people with serious mental illnesses. "If Illinois is to improve, the state needs to spend its unspent mental health care dollars on mental health," Frank Anselmo, CEO of the Community Behavioral Health Care Association said then. He's still Burt Constable saying it. ===== "Our concern is the same, or growing," Anselmo said Friday. He says Illinois has $59.1 million earmarked for mental health. Those funds come from the state's mental health trust fund and money received through the federal government's hospital tax assessment. It's just that in these tight-budget times, the money hasn't been doled out, and local officials fear it could be swept into the general budget. Meanwhile, the need for mat money grows. "We are serving 77 percent more people than we were in 2001," says Karen Beyer, executive director of the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin. "Our funding increase during that time period has been 42 percent." The suburbs are home to more people, more poor people, and more people without health insurance — especially as the economy grapples with recession. "Eighty-four percent of people we see live at the poverty level or below," Beyer says. "We are the last resort." It's not just those who have lost jobs. "A lot have moderate incomes, or working poor people who make just enough so they are not eligible for Medicaid, but they don't have insurance," says Denis Ferguson, executive director of Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health in Arlington Heights. "Now we're getting more and more kids who are on Medicaid or in working poor families that are uninsured," Ferguson says. "An outgrowth of the economy is that companies that may have given insurance don't anymore." Higher deductibles make it difficult for some to get the help they need. Meanwhile, the mental health facilities freeze employees' pay, cut their budgets and treat more and more people. "Our demand grows 10 to 13 percent a year," Ferguson says. He says his facility has a four-week wait to get a non- emergency appointment with a psychiatrist. He tells of another clinic that has a one- year wait for children needing mental health care. Early intervention and good outreach programs in the community help people "recognize red flags for suicidal thoughts and behavior," Ferguson says. But when the money doesn't come, those programs get pushed aside for the more urgent needs. "We are seeing people in the community now who are much sicker than we saw in 2001,"Beyer notes. No one wants to capitalize on 'tragedy. But the NIU shooting did bring attention to mental health care. "People say, 'Oh, we should do something about it,'" Ferguson says. "And then we are back to cutting taxes and cutting programs." Millions of dollars that could help thousands of suburbanites are in political limbo. The suburbs' mental health professionals wait. "The dedication of the people who work here amazes me," Beyer says. "It's a difficult time, but I always have hope." Cook County sheriff says chief judge isn't doing job BY ROB OLMSTEAD niliiixIfiiil&ilHilylifiiilil.rnin Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart took aim at the county's chief judge, Timothy Evans, this week, claiming Evans is refusing to do his job regarding electronic monitoring at the jail. Dart made the charge in a legal filing, in an escalation of a campaign Dart has been engaged in for some time to shift responsibility to judges for deciding which inmates are eligible for home detention under electronic monitoring. Currently, Dart's office picks those inmates. But he claims that in most counties across the country, judges decide because tiiey have more information about die defendant's background and can make a better judgment as to who is a bad risk. Releasing inmates is a hot topic for two reasons. First, no one wants to get stuck with the responsibility for being the official who released an inmate who went-out to murder or rape someone. Second, electronic monitoring is almost a requirement now in Cook County because the jail is close to capacity and is under a federal court order to ease crowding. Home monitoring is one way to do that. It is in that federal court case, known as the Duran case, that Dart made his accusations Thursday. "The primary and direct responsibility for reducing the inmate population at the Cook County Department of Corrections rests with the state court judiciary," wrote Dart's lawyers. "Since April 26, 2007, the sheriff and his staff have had nine separate meetings with the chief judge ... or his designees ... seeking to obtain meaningful input from the judiciary in the (electronic monitoring) program which is being operated by the sheriff solely due to the failure of the judiciary to act." Dart's lawyers claim they have proposed six plans to Evans, all of which have been rejected. The filing notes that Dart has authorized his attorneys to try to add Evans as a defen- dant in the case if he won't cooperate. Dart's filing comes at the same time he is under fire in the Duran case for sharply lowering the number of inmates he's allowed out on electronic monitoring. In January 2006, about 1,500 inmates were on electronic monitoring. In January 2007, there were more than 900. Last month, there were only 419 allowed out, said Charles Fasano, a court monitor at the jail. Fasano agreed that die judiciary should play some role. But another advocacy group that's party to the Duran case has taken issue with Dart's unilateral decrease of releases, saying Dart is in violation of the agreement the Duran case produced. Jail officials and the advocacy groups met in U.S. District Judge .Virginia Kendall's chambers Friday morning to discuss the situation. The meeting was closed to the media and die public. Dart's office declined to comment Friday; Evans could not be reached for comment. Six counties in 60 seconds Cathedral closed until May: Officials with die Archdiocese of Chicago say the city's Holy Name Cathedral will be closed until early May to complete structural repairs on the 134- year-old building's ceiling and roof. Engineers had hoped to have me cathedral open in time for Easter on March 23. The cathedral closed on Feb. 26. Forensic engineers found diat structural weakness had caused a 10-pound piece of wood to fall 70 feet from the ceiling to the floor on Feb. 12. No one was injured. Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Burritt said engineers inspected the ceiling and found the original 1874 wooden trusses need repairs. Burritt said all Masses will move to the cathedral's parish auditorium. Shooter out of jail: A Canadian man who pleaded guilty in February to the 1969 shooting of a Chicago police officer has been released from Cook County jail. In exchange for his guilty plea to an aggra- vated battery charge, Joseph Pannell, 58, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years' probation. He also agreed to give $250,000 to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, a fund for the families of injured or fallen officers. Money for the donation came from Pannell supporters in Toronto and defense attorneys in the Chicago area. Pannell was 19 when he shot Terrence Knox in the arm. For about three decades, Pannell lived under an alias. Pardon raises eyebrows: An administrator at the Chicago school that mistakenly received a $1 million state grant was one of just 67 people to get a pardon from Gov. Rod Blagojevich during his five years in office. Blagojevich cleared Chandra Gill's criminal record last year while hundreds of other Illinoisans waited for him to decide their cases. Today, the list of clemency requests has stretched to 1,571 people, the governor's office said. The grant mistake combined widi Blagojevich's pardon have prompted questions of whether Gill received special treatment. A legislative committee plans to begin investigating next week. But one lawmaker argued Friday that die governor was right to clear Gill, who was convicted of aggravated battery in 2003. Rep. Connie Howard, a Chicago Democrat, said she testified for Gill at her clemency hearing with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in 2006. She praised Gill for her commitment to education and community work. Grand jury gets NIU case: Prosecutors say they've taken the case of five students shot dead last month at Northern Illinois University before a grand jury. 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