This past April, the McHenry County Mental Health Board reinvested funds from its trimmed administrative budget into the community by opening a grant process designed to support new, innovative programs and services throughout the county.
This funding comes at a time when the need for human services continues to increase but state budget cuts, delayed state funding and rising costs make it difficult to meet community needs. Through this process, Pioneer Center for Human Services received funding for five unique, much-needed initiatives.
“It is vitally important to the all the members of the Mental Health Board that we address the issues faced by our community members,” said Lyn Orphal, Interim Executive Director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board. “Creating the services and programs needed in McHenry County takes innovative thinking on the part of our partner agencies and through this process we were encouraged and inspired by their ability to think outside the box.”
One new area of Pioneer Center’s programming is the addition of a medical director. This new position will bring a full-time, board certified psychiatrist to Pioneer Center and allow for expansion of psychiatric services, professional leadership of the organization’s existing medical services and working toward building a community network of psychiatric services.
Studies report that on average 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. As McHenry County continues to grow, this creates a consistent and rapidly expanding need for psychiatric services. The addition of a medical director will increase Pioneer Center’s psychiatric capacity by 74%.
In addition, Pioneer Center received funding to begin the county’s first telepsychiatry program for individuals with concurrent mental health and developmental disability diagnoses. Telepsychiatry is currently one of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas. It connects clients, psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals through the use of video cameras and microphones. As the success and growth of the program is measured, the agency plans to expand the use of telepsychiatry to other client groups.
“Telepsychiatry is modern medicine’s answer to ever-increasing need for psychiatric services,” said Ronica Patel, Director of Behavioral Health at Pioneer Center. “Our county has had a continued need for psychiatric services that has outpaced the ability to provide services. Our goal is to introduce a program that will not only address the current need but open the door for innovative access to programs never before offered in McHenry County.”
Additional program and service expansions funded by the Mental Health Board in 2014-15 include:
Hiring of a Bilingual Transition Support Specialist
The Bilingual Transition Support Specialist will play a key role in working with school districts throughout the county where language barriers present a nearly insurmountable barrier to finding and receiving placement in programs that help young adults with developmental disabilities transition from a school environment to adult services.
Creation of an Autism Day Program
This past March, The Centers for Disease Control released a report stating that 1 in 68 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our local community has consistently expressed at forums such as school provider meetings and Mental Health Board public hearings that Autism supports are significantly lacking and absolutely needed. Service delivery will focus on individualized service planning, skill development, education, therapy/sensory support, community inclusion and volunteer opportunities.
Hiring of a Developmental Disability Wellness Nurse
The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities report that when people with disabilities receive needed programs, services and “health care” across their lifespan they can reach their full potential, have an improved quality of life and experience independence. Compared to those without disabilities, those with disabilities are more than 4 times likely to report their health as fair/poor and nearly 61% more likely to be obese. The addition of a Developmental Disability Wellness Nurse will allow clients served to have greater life satisfaction, increased exercise and nutrition knowledge, improved cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and endurance, and improved diet and weight.
“All of these program or service additions were sought with the community’s needs in mind,” said Patrick Maynard, PhD, President and CEO of Pioneer Center. “Our mission has and always will be to empower individuals to achieve their full potential. And, through our partnership with the Mental Health Board in bringing these services to life, we will be one step closer to responding to the expanding needs of McHenry County.”