Few details yet about why Larkin Center closed

Few additional details were forthcoming Thursday from Larkin Center and state officials about today's closing of the Elgin-based provider of mental health services.

A union representing nonmanagement employees said it has filed a grievance with the center over the lack of notice.

“We are shocked at this development. ... To suddenly implement the transition in this manner is inherently disruptive and destabilizing to the youth that are served by the Larkin Center to assure a smooth transition for all employees and clients,” said a letter signed by the president and treasurer of Service Employees International Union Local 73.

The union hand-delivered the letter Tuesday to about 100 members who work for Larkin, said Adam Rosen, the local's spokesman.

Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain was saddened by the news of the closure of the center after 117 years. It started as an orphanage and eventually came to provide services for people with emotional and mental health problems, with a focus on children.

“It's definitely a huge loss to the (mental health) community as well as the Elgin community,” he said.

Larkin Center Executive Director Dennis L. Graf would not say anything about what will happen to clients, what treatment program is being taken over by Lawrence Hall Youth Services, or how the center ended up with financial difficulties. He said he couldn't say anything beyond what was in a Wednesday news release announcing the closure.

He did say center workers were busy Thursday figuring out what to do about clients.

Colette Bradley, spokesman for Lawrence Hall Youth Services of Chicago, declined to identify which group homes it will run, saying doing so would compromise the clients' confidentiality. She said it is talking to the Department of Children and Family Services about what treatment programs it will assume.

DCFS spokeswoman Karen Hawkins said Larkin informed the state of the closure on Oct. 11. DCFS has a contract with Larkin for 42 beds for children in the agency's care. Right now, only 35 children are actually using the beds. She also said Lawrence Hall was going to take over all of Larkin's group homes.

Lawrence Hall had announced Wednesday it would operate four Larkin homes. Larkin's website says it has six homes for youths and one for adults.

Rosen said the union found out Tuesday night that Lawrence Hall had posted 29 job openings for Elgin locations. He did not know if the information came from Lawrence Hall, Larkin Center or an employee.

Rosen said members include team coaches, teachers, child-care workers, special-education teacher assistants, teacher's aides, counselors and mental health professionals. Besides the grievance over warning time, the union has also filed a request for decision-and-effects bargaining with the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

A spokesman for Dundee Unit District 300 said it has one student attending the Rakow Campus, Larkin's therapeutic day school, and that it was told the school is closing Friday. District 300 is finding an alternative place for that student.

Geneva District 304 has not had any students at the school the last two years, according to a spokesman. Rakow Campus has served up to 20 northern Illinois school districts.

The president and treasurer of Larkin Center's board of directors could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The city leases the land on which Rakow Campus sits from the state. It is on the grounds of the Elgin Sports Complex, near the rear of the Elgin Mental Health Center at Route 31 and U.S. 20. Kaptain said Larkin Center in the spring wanted the city to obtain seven more acres from the EMHC and allow Larkin to consolidate its group homes there.

He was not sure if another entity could assume Larkin's Rakow Campus lease.

But that was of less concern to him than the fate of the clients.

“I think the big concern is here, what will happen to the kids?” Kaptain said.

Larkin Center will close

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