Mercyhealth asks to close unit as mental health efforts ramp up

Mercyhealth asks to close unit as mental health efforts ramp up

ROCKFORD — Mercyhealth is seeking state approval to close an underused behavioral health unit for adults that serves two or three patients daily at its Rockton Avenue hospital. The move comes as Winnebago County is ramping up tax-supported efforts to provide more mental health services for residents. Danielle Angileri, executive director of NAMI of Northern Illinois, said she is concerned that the closing would have a negative impact. "We believe we need more mental health services, not less," said Angileri, whose group advocates for services for those with mental illness. "You have to wonder about ... any reduction" in services, said Dick Kunnert, a member of the Winnebago County Mental Health Board that will recommend how to spend money from a half-cent sales tax dedicated to pay for mental health services. The tax, approved in March by 62% of voters, is expected to generate about $14 million a year for mental health and addiction services in the county. Kunnert said, however, that psychiatric beds for adults is not the top priority for the community. "There are a whole array of services — crisis services for kids and adults," he said. A big issue, Kunnert said, is this: "What should the mental health system be doing versus what the police should be doing." About 20% of inmates in jails and 15% in prisons are estimated to have a serious mental illness, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit. A further issue facing Mercyhealth’s behavioral unit is staffing. Because of the low average occupancy rate of of ...
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