First-ever Rosecrance Forum celebrates progress, legacy of the late Frank Ware

The namesake of the newly relocated Rosecrance Ware Center took center stage Tuesday, Nov. 18, during The Rosecrance Forum.
The building is named for Frank Ware, the longtime former CEO of the Janet Wattles Center. The center merged with Rosecrance in 2011, and Ware died unexpectedly shortly after.

Ware was a passionate, loving man who cared deeply about people with serious mental illness. He and Rosecrance President/CEO Phil Eaton were friends and colleagues who collaborated to serve people in the community who often were dealing with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

forum_zenoff_wideRosecrance is moving the Ware Center from its current home (and former home of the Janet Wattles Center) at 526 W. State St. just a few miles north to 2704 N. Main St. The 42,000-square-foot former grocery store space is nearly double the size of the old location and has a comforting, modern design.

Board members, donors and other friends of Rosecrance previewed the building during the first forum event on Tuesday. Tom Furst, a longtime Rosecrance board member and chairman of The Rosecrance Forum, said the forums aim to educate people about the work we do, discuss plans for the future and inform people about important trends in behavioral health.

Rosecrance President/CEO Philip Eaton, Rosecrance Foundation Board Chair Lisa Lindman, and Rosecrance Health Network Board Chair Jeff DiBenedetto.

Eaton joked a bit about the former grocery store space, telling various sections of the audience that they were sitting in the produce, bakery and deli departments. He noted that about a year ago, Rosecrance sold the downtown Ware Center building to Winnebago County and bought the vacant grocery store. “We assessed our needs, set priorities to reflect our corporate values for client dignity, program space and staff and client safety, keeping the consumers’ recovery goals – not their illnesses – at the center of our plan.

“We are creating a new, improved pathway of recovery for those in our community who struggle with serious mental illness and/or addictive disorders.” Illinois Appellate Judge Kathryn Zenoff delivered a moving speech about behavioral health services in the community and her work with Ware and Eaton, whom she called “extraordinary men, two reformers and dreamers.”

Zenoff worked with Ware to design, create and open a mental health court – called the Therapeutic Intervention Program (TIP) Court – in February 2005. Central to the model, both pre- and post-guilty plea for either a misdemeanor or felony, is a multidisciplinary team of legal and treatment professions who assess participants’ needs and risks and then provide what’s termed “wraparound services.”

She recalled how Ware and Eaton worked together to provide integrated dual-disorder treatment to TIP Court participants. Zenoff said after “Frank died a sudden and untimely death, Phil picked up the gauntlet for both of them.”

“It is only fitting that Frank Ware’s name will be attached to this building along with Rosecrance’s,” she said. “We need only look around us to see that aspects of the building symbolize who Frank was and what was important to him.

“The canopy out front provides shelter and welcomes all persons who enter the doors here. The trees and the greens in the planters symbolize life and recovery and renewal and hope. That was Frank’s mantra. The high ceilings symbolize Frank’s attitude that there were no hurdles too high to overcome for those who needed his help. In the warm of the wood, we can see Frank’s compassion and his caring, his commitment to see the person, not the mental illness. There is ample space here to ensure help in the future for all walking in those doors. Phil Eaton saw to that.”