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DeKalb Daily Chronicle March 14, 2009
By KATE SCHOTT - City Editor kschott@daily-chronicle.com

Panel could hear KCH proposal in July

Kishwaukee Community Hospital's proposal to close its behavioral health unit is scheduled to be heard in July by the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.

The board this week declared KCH's application is complete, according to the board's Web site. The matter is tentatively on the agenda for the board's July 15-16 meetings. That board is responsible for ensuring that the distribution of various health services in the state is fairly proportioned.

That means the state has "determined that all the information they require is provided," KCH spokeswoman Sharon Emanuelson said Friday.

Emanuelson said hospital administrators, including Vice President of Business Development Joe Dant, plan to attend the July hearing to present their proposal to the board.

"We're prepared," Emanuelson said.

KCH notified the state of its intent to close the behavioral health unit – which offers inpatient mental health services – in a Nov. 20, 2008, letter to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.
KCH has provided inpatient care for mental illness for 33 years, KishHealth System CEO Kevin Poorten said during a public forum Monday night. The unit had 16 beds when it 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.

The Illinois Department of Public Health State Summary released in October 2008 found that there are 33 excess acute mental illness beds in the geographical area that includes KCH.

During Monday's forum, several people spoke 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 with mental illness.

Anyone wishing to request a public hearing about the proposal to close the unit has until March 28 to do so, according to the planning board. Anyone wanting to submit written comments on KCH's proposal must do so by June 25.

Additionally, a state agency report from the Illinois Department of Public Health on KCH's request is scheduled to be released July 1, according to the planning board. Written responses in support of or opposition to the findings of that report must be received by 9 a.m. July 10.

The application

Copies of the application from Kishwaukee Community Hospital to close its behavioral health unit may be viewed at the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board Office, 525 W. Jefferson St., Second Floor, Springfield, IL 62761.

To obtain a copy of an application, please call the office for details and copying fees, at 217-782-3516.
Copyright © 2009 Daily Chronicle. All rights reserved.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115