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DeKalb Daily Chronicle March 10, 2009
By KATE SCHOTT - City Editor

Speakers ask KCH to keep mental health unit open

DeKALB – About 100 people attended a forum Monday night to share their thoughts on the proposed closing of an inpatient mental health unit at Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb.
More than a dozen people spoke during the two-hour forum, which was held in the multipurpose room at the DeKalb County Health Department and hosted by the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board. Almost all voiced support for keeping the unit open.
"Get with it, and rethink your decision," said Ivan Williams, who more than 40 years ago helped forge the county's health department.
KCH notified the state of its intent to close the behavioral health unit at the hospital in a Nov. 20, 2008, letter to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. That board is responsible for ensuring that the distribution of various health services in the state is fairly proportioned.
Charles Rose, president of the county mental health board, said the forum was held to gather feedback about the proposed closure and all comments made Monday will be sent to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. But Rose stressed that the county mental health board has no jurisdiction over either KCH or the state's planning board.
Several spoke Monday of the hardship that families will have if they have to travel to see a loved one being treated in another city, noting that the support of family, friends and clergy from the community they call home can help with the healing process. Others said closing the unit would send the wrong message to the community about the importance of treating those who are mentally ill.
KishHealth System CEO Kevin Poorten said it was a "very difficult decision" to ask the state to close the unit, but stressed that the hospital is still committed to providing mental health services to fit the needs of the community. He noted that the number of people seeking mental health services at KCH is up, and that $1.7 million has been spent during the last three years on recruiting psychiatrists to come work at the hospital.
KCH has provided inpatient care for mental illness for 33 years, Poorten said, and had 16 beds when the unit opened in the 1970s. The state reduced that number to eight beds in 1998 and reduced it again to six beds when the new hospital opened in 2007, he added.
In recent years it has become difficult to staff the unit because most psychiatrists and clinical staff now prefer to work in an outpatient setting, hospital officials have said, and KCH is unsure it can provide the breadth and depth of services needed in the unit.
"We are a community hospital, and we have to be honest with ourselves," Poorten said. "Sometimes we have limitations."
The Illinois Department of Public Health State Summary released in October 2008 found there are 33 excess acute mental illness beds in the geographical area that includes KCH and the hospital has written agreements with five other hospitals to work toward a seamless transition of patients, Poorten said.
But Eve Zahrndt, a registered nurse with the hospital's behavioral health unit, said the unit provides excellent care and noted that President Barack Obama's health care plan stresses providing and improving services in a patient's community.
Donna Bennett, who spent seven years on the county's mental health board and said she had a child who was mentally ill, said she was appalled by the decision to close the unit. The mentally ill are not a high priority for the state or the nation, she said, and won't be for the county either if the hospital closes its unit.
"The mentally ill seldom are able to speak for themselves, so I'm asking you, on their behalf, to reconsider," she said.

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Mental Health Advocate- October 2009

Dr. Foroutan Letter to the State

the DeKalb County Citizens for Better Mental health Care

State decision on mental health unit postponed



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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115