Kishwaukee Hospitals mental health unit's closure
will hurt many
On March 9, the DeKalb County Mental Health Board held an
open forum to gather community input about closing Kishwaukee
Hospitals mental health unit. As a member of the board,
and knowing these forums usually do not attract large crowds,
I was surprised to see close to 130 people attending.
In summary, presentations were made by the hospital officials
indicating few patients, staffing and costs as reasons for their
request. Personal comments stressed the need for families to
be close to help patients gain a footing, and it was stressed
that changing doctors by transportation to hospitals some 40
to 50 miles away causes hardships on both patients and families.
What I find most disturbing and unfortunate is the timing of
Efforts from 1996 on to expand mental health parity came
on Oct. 24, 2008 when then-President Bush signed into law P.L.
110-343 which provided expanded mental health parity (to meet
many unmet needs) within the rescue package for the U.S. financial
system. The law provides many with insurance not currently within
The timing is also off because hospital officials and the
hospital board must have known about studies being done to get
a more accurate picture of local needs. For example, the DeKalb
County Human Service Delivery in a Challenging Economy
was being conducted by the DeKalb County Community Foundation,
Kishwaukee United Way and the NIU Center for Governmental Studies.
They must have also been aware of studies in progress by Health
Systems Research at the University of Illinois College of Medicine
in Rockford to provide the DeKalb County Mental Health Board
with an up-to-date assessment as to current mental health needs
in the county. This study is still in progress and results are
expected early this summer.
Added to the information above are the upsetting statistics
reported on suicides within our armed forces abroad in war zones,
the experience last year on campus and a trend toward growth
in suicides among our young populations.
National surveys report a growing jail population indication
of 20 percent of inmates with substance abuse and mental health
needs. In addition, when one looks at the severe downturn in
our economy causing greater unemployment and veterans returning
home, in need of help readjusting to everyday life, it seems
unreal to eliminate the mental health unit at this time.
Does every unit in our hospital have to be profitable? This
community came aboard to help build this new not-for-profit hospital.
For all these reasons and more, I hope both the hospital and
the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board take a close and
serious look at our communitys mental health needs because
if they do so, they will come to their senses.
County board representative to the DeKalb County Mental Health