Tinley Park center to close despite funds to keep it open
Phil Kadner email@example.com | (708) 633-6787 June 20, 2012 10:18AM
The Tinley Park Mental Health Center is slated to be closed July 1. | File photo
Gov. Pat Quinn has made up his mind. The Tinley Park Mental Health Center is going to close next month, no matter what measures supporters take to preserve the institution.
Despite legislation that passed in the General Assembly this spring, providing $10 million to keep the center open until the end of the year, the state is forging ahead with plans to close it July 2.
An Illinois Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the hospital stopped accepting new patients on Monday.
“That will give the current patients the 11 days on average they need to complete treatment,” spokeswoman Kayce Ataiyero said.
State Rep. Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields), who co-sponsored the bill extending state funding for the mental health center until Jan. 1, denounced the state’s decision to close it soon as “bull-headed stubbornness.”
“Nobody was saying keeping Tinley Park open was a long-term solution,” said Riley, who teamed with state Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) in sponsoring the extension. “The idea was to give the state more time to find appropriate community services for the patients there.
“The state still does not have a plan in place to service the needs of all the patients Tinley Park services,” he said. “If you have a family member with a mental problem, their plan is to send people from the south suburbs, and the facility certainly serves a larger population base, but they want to send the people here all the way up to the North Side of Chicago in some cases or way out south.
“And they advertised on Craigslist for mental health providers to take these patients. That’s not a joke, although it sounds like one. They haven’t been able to sign up enough providers, so they asked for people to take the mentally ill in on Craigslist.”
The state is closing the Tinley Park hospital to save money. But it’s debatable how much the state would save after it spends money on community services and private hospital treatment for the mentally ill.
It costs Illinois about $20 million a year to keep Tinley Park open, and the state is planning to spend an estimated $12 million to transition the patients to smaller, community-based treatment programs.
But advocates for the mentally ill contend that while community-based treatment is preferable to institutionalization for many patients, there still are people requiring hospital care.
Critics of the state’s plan claim that the cost of community care will far exceed the state’s estimate, but their worst fears are that there simply aren’t enough private hospital beds for psychiatric patients in the Chicago region.
The patients treated at Tinley Park Mental Health Center have no insurance and often suffer from severe mental disorders in combination with substance abuse.
Mark Heyrman, a board member of Mental Health America of Illinois, contends that “mental health advocates are concerned that the state refuses to commit itself to reinvesting the $19.8 million from the Tinley Park closure in alternative services.
“DHS is adamant that they will only use $12.8 million,” Heyrman said. “This contradicts the intent of the legislation expressed in (Senate Bill) 2454, violates the Community Reinvestment Act and will harm persons with serious mental illnesses since there will not be sufficient services in the Southland to serve all the people who have been served by Tinley Park.”
Heyrman’s organization has joined forces with the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Illinois in a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the state from closing the Tinley Park center.
SB 2454 sets aside funds for transitioning mental health patients to community-based programs.
But Riley said the bill he and Crotty sponsored set aside $10 million specifically to keep Tinley Park Mental Health Center open. He said he felt “tricked” by DHS, which indicated that it lacked the funds to keep the hospital open through the end of the year.
“Gov. Quinn obviously has made up his mind, and it doesn’t matter what the Legislature thinks,” Riley said. “The Legislature doesn’t want to do this. This is the governor’s plan and has been all along.”
In addition to the impact on the patients and their families, Riley said the Southland will lose $50 million in revenue due to the closing of the hospital.
“It takes time to formulate a compassionate, effective plan to treat the mentally ill,” Riley said. “We offered the state time to do that. The governor doesn’t want that time.”