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Article updated: 10/22/2013 4:26 PM

DuPage County plans to build new mental health center

By Robert Sanchez

DuPage County Health Department officials are unveiling plans to merge two mental health facilities into a new building on their Wheaton campus.

The proposed behavioral health services center would be constructed off Manchester Road on a vacant lot directly east of the health department's main building. It would allow for the consolidation of the department's Crisis Center in Lombard and its Transitional Services Center in Wheaton.

"We have aging facilities right now," said Linda Kurzawa, president of the DuPage County Board of Health. "This is going to give us a new opportunity to bring the community in, to have input into how it (the new center) should be developed and to potentially have a state-of-the-art facility."

Kurzawa said the health board agreed to move ahead with the project, estimated to cost between $5.2 million and $7.8 million, because there are residents who need the services the center would provide.

"It will be an enormous improvement for them," she said.

Maureen McHugh, health department executive director, said consolidating two facilities into one location will have multiple benefits, including improved synergy and lower operational costs.

"We'll be able to centralize a lot of the infrastructure that they both require in order to run effectively," McHugh said.

There also are plans for the health department to have space at the facility for the DuPage County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"That will not only enhance the services we can provide," McHugh said, "it also gives us a broader base in terms of volunteers."

A preliminary design of the center won't be completed until February. However, the proposed building is expected to have multiple floors and total from 20,000 square feet to 28,000 square feet, officials said.

McHugh said the hope is to break ground in summer 2014 and open the facility by summer 2015.

Once the building opens, the two other locations will be sold. Money raised from those sales would help pay for the new center's construction.

The health department already has $4.6 million saved to help pay for the project. Its 2014 budget includes an additional $2.1 for infrastructure projects.

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