by Dwayne T. Ervin
Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) announced the closing of Howe Development Center, 183rd and Harlem in Tinley Park on July 1, 2009 while Tinley Park Mental Health Center, 7400 183rd Street in Tinley Park will be restructured and have privatized services. IDHS mental health and developmental disabilities officials announced the changes for Howe Development Center and Tinley Park
Mental Health Center last Friday. The Division of Mental Health hopes to find new positions for all or most
staff at Tinley Park. Residents of Howe will be moved to community-based homes or other state-operated developmental-centers. The restructuring plan for Tinley Park Mental Health Center will temporarily move all services into one building on the campus. Additionally, a portion of the bed capacity will be moved to other
Chicago land mental health centers and private psychiatric wards.
IDHS recently filed a notice of the intent to close with the Commission on Government Forecasting and
Accountability (CGFA) and the Health Facilities Planning Board. Notice with the CGFA starts a 50-day period during which action to implement closure is on hold, according to a released statement.
According to Grace Hou assistant secretary of Illinois Department of Human Services, the Southland is
growing and plans are in the offing to build a state of the art facility to serve mental health and people with
development disabilities. “We are working with families of the residents of Howe,” she said. “We also plan to provide other employment opportunities for the staff of Howe when it closes.”
Dr. Tanya Anderson, director IDHS Division of Mental Health, stated that this plan has been in the works since 2004. “We will be working closely with the unions and staff throughout this process to move some staff into positions at Chicago Read or Madden Mental Health Centers.”
According to Lilia Teninty director of IDHS Division of Development Disabilities, there are 316 residents and 754 staff at the Howe Development Center. “We care about and value the staff at Howe Development Center and will be working with them and providing support and resources throughout the process,” she said. “We will add jobs to other developmental disability centers. We plan to allocate funding to community based housing,” she added.
According to State Rep. Kathleen A. Ryg (D-59), Illinois ranks at 51st and failing with mentally ill treatment
in the country. There have been reports to the court for the mistreatment of the mentally ill. There has been a lack of revenue for mentally ill and the federal dollars have been denied. “We in the state are taking the first step to fix a broken system,” she said. “There must be dollars reinvested into state facilities.
“We must offer quality care and choice for programs that offer the best service. We must have quality care in state facilities. We must have a change during these difficult situations with the staff. We cannot accept 51st and failing and our voices must be heard. This reinvestment of dollars will go towards improving state-operated centers. Additional resources will build a stronger system, community based programs and services. More funding will mean more jobs and increased wages for the staff,” she stated.
“Good things happened there (at Howe),” Art Dykstra said. Dykstra has worked for 20 years for the State of Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHDD) in several capacities. He has served as superintendent of two state-operated facilities, the regional administrator for developmental disabilities of the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area facilities, and also worked as a program advisor to the MHDD. In 1987, Trinity Services, a Jolietbased school employing 33 people and serving 40 people with developmental disabilities, invited Dykstra to serve as their executive director. Referring again to Howe, he added, “People learned skills there. Many things happened to improve lives at that facility. It was a troubled facility before the Blagojevich administration. People who came from Lincoln and Dixon to Howe had
good things happen to them. We look for the alternatives they have and not the alternatives they do not have. This is about (improving) the quality of lives,” he stated.
The long-range goal is to build a new state-of-the-art, privately managed psychiatric hospital in the south suburbs. Guided by input from stakeholders, IDHS plans to begin a bidding process by January 2009 to award a contract to build and operate a new mental health facility as a public-private partnership. Under the current timetable, a new facility would open in 2010 at a location within the southland region. The number of beds, the size of the new facility and other features will be determined as the state receives input form stakeholders over the coming months.