Rosecrance CEO Eaton calls it a “step backward” for mental health care
ROCKFORD — The Rosecrance Mulberry Center, which serves people in the throes of mental health crises, will cut hours in triage services by more than half effective Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, because the state has zeroed out operational funds that were promised to partially fill the gap left when Singer Mental Health Center closed three years ago.
Starting Monday, the triage program will no longer operate around the clock. It will be open only from noon to 11 p.m. Individuals in crisis who encounter police or who present at area emergency rooms overnight will have to remain in custody or in area hospitals until staff is on duty to assess them for the appropriate level of care.
“The state has abandoned the good-faith agreement it made to fund community services for people in psychiatric crisis after closing Singer Mental Health Center,” said Philip W. Eaton, President/CEO of Rosecrance Health Network “This is bad public policy and a horribly short-sighted decision. It strikes at the heart of the most vulnerable people among us.”
The problem is not just that Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers haven’t settled on a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1; the problem is that almost $1.5 million in funding promised for the triage center was zeroed out in Rauner’s proposed budget. The Rosecrance Board of Directors authorized using reserve funds to keep triage open around the clock since July 1, at a cost of about $500,000 that cannot be recovered. The Rosecrance Board will reevaluate the funding situation and triage hours in December.
Eaton said the lack of funding is a step backward for our state, our community and people with serious mental illness who need and deserve these services.
“Rosecrance stepped up before Singer closed to start a much-needed triage program that has helped almost 3,000 people since 2012 and successfully reduced hospital emergency room wait times and the jail population, and has kept police officers on the streets,” he said.
“The consequences of this broken promise by the state are that more people will end up restrained in hospital emergency rooms or in the back of police cars. Police will once again be tied up for hours – or an entire shift — dealing with individuals in crisis.”
Rosecrance started its triage program on Oct. 29, 2012, the day after state officials closed Singer Mental Health Center, the state-operated inpatient psychiatric hospital in Rockford. Triage
operates as a behavioral health emergency room where people experiencing psychiatric crises can go for immediate assessment, stabilization and referral to the most appropriate follow-up care. It’s a better alternative to people lingering in hospital emergency rooms or ending up in jail because they have nowhere else to go.
Triage services last year moved to the Rosecrance Mulberry Center. State officials, in a good-faith agreement with Rosecrance to bridge the service gap after Singer closed, allotted $1.5 million for Mulberry, a one-of-a-kind facility in Illinois that houses triage, detoxification services and crisis residential beds together under one roof.
No staff will be laid off as a result of this change; employees instead have been moved to other vacant positions that are open as a result of a hold on hiring. The schedule change at Rosecrance Mulberry Center affects only the triage program; the detox and crisis residential beds will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Rosecrance has communicated this news to local hospitals and first-responders, as they’re likely to be impacted the most by this change. Included in the line item for the Mulberry Center were funds that allowed Rosecrance staff to respond within 60 minutes to Rockford and Belvidere hospital emergency rooms for individuals in psychiatric crisis in need of screenings, triage assessments and – when needed – transports/transfers to the triage program. The Rockford Police Department in recent months also has consulted with our mobile crisis staff during events involving people in psychiatric crisis. Those mobile crisis intervention services have been eliminated as a result of the state funding cut.
Eaton said Rosecrance is especially grateful for support from the United Way of Rock River Valley. United Way provided a $46,000 grant to support the Mulberry Center. In its first three years, the triage center has received positive reviews from area hospitals for reducing ER wait times and from law enforcement agencies for keeping police officers on the streets and reducing the jail population.
“The Board of Directors determined that we must continue these services using cash reserves, at least until the end of the calendar year, with the hope that state funds will be restored to serve some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Eaton said.
This story was featured in the Rockford Register Star. Click here to read the article.