Kane County's five clinical forensic psychologists tasked with evaluating the ability of criminal defendants, including alleged sex offenders, to stand trial perform their work in an isolated building with no security. And there is no plan to address that safety hazard.
Kane County Board members on Tuesday heard a presentation from Dr. Alexandra Tsang, director of the Kane County Diagnostic Center. Tsang became the latest county official to express concerns about working in an outdated, unsafe county building. Coroner Rob Russell has lodged similar complaints about his facility since he took office at the end of 2012.
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Unlike the coroner's office, there is no long-range plan to move the diagnostic center. The facility sits on land formerly occupied by the old Kane County jail and sheriff's office.
Both of those buildings were phased out and razed when replacement facilities came online at the Kane County Judicial Center. County board members have occasionally discussed the potential of selling the land the diagnostic center is located on as part of a larger vision to redevelop the overall 700-acre Fabyan Parkway campus owned by the county and forest preserve district.
The diagnostic center is more than 40 years old, but it displays multiple signs of a much older building. Tsang displayed two samples of water taken from the kitchen and bathroom facilities at the diagnostic center. The samples resembled a liquid closer to iced tea than water.
Tsang painted a vision of a forgotten building. The closest public transportation to the public facility is more than a mile away. Collapsible walls that are far from soundproof separate the therapy sessions for clients. Three staff members were diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning in January because of poor ventilation.
At the same time, the workload of the diagnostic center is on the rise. The full-time clinical staff, which includes only one male worker, performed 87 sex offender evaluations last year. They will more than double that total this year with 91 sex offender evaluations already completed through July. And more than half of the full psychological evaluations now involve clients accused of some level of domestic violence.
Then are a new segment of patients Tsang said her office is evaluating.
"We just did a school shooting assessment on someone two months ago," she said. "No one in the community wants to consider that a Sandy Hook, or that type of incident, could happen here. But children are bringing guns to school. The threat is out there."
County board members are now tasked with finding a solution to the safety threats posed to the diagnostic center staffers as long as they remain in their current facility.
But spending a lot of money on a new building is not in the immediate future as many board members have political commitments to keeping the county's share of the property tax levy flat.
County board member Barb Wojnicki said creativity will be needed to find a solution. She suggested space might be found at the Kane County circuit court clerk's office on Randall Road in St. Charles. The building already contains court security staff.
"What's really key in this is their isolation," Wojnicki said. "It's very dangerous for them to work out there. They don't need a brand-new building. But we need to think of moving them somewhere where they are protected."