Lake County funds wellness center for first responders, veterans
The Lake County Board on Tuesday allocated $15.6 million in federal COVID relief funds with an emphasis on new and expanded mental health services.
Proposals from external organizations were reviewed, scored and prioritized during a monthslong process shepherded by the county board's special finance committee dealing with COVID relief funding provided through the American Rescue Plan Act.
"Our board is very focused on using these ARPA funds to invest in human services and the needs of people in our communities," said committee chair Paul Frank of Highland Park.
Twenty projects were recommended for approval. Half were capital projects totaling $11.7 million.
Among them are $3 million to the Josselyn Center to renovate a building and expand services in Waukegan and nearly $2.4 million for a wellness center serving first responders and veterans. Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, which will run the wellness center in Round Lake, also will receive $600,000 to coordinate care.
Community Partners for Affordable Housing will receive $3 million for senior housing and $500,000 for a housing hub. Other approved projects were $1.36 million to PADS Lake County for a non-congregate shelter; $1.05 million for a teen innovation lab for the Boys & Girls Club of Lake County; and $864,900 for the court-appointed special advocates program.
Northbrook-based Josselyn Center is a state-certified community mental health center providing treatment for low-income people at eight locations in Lake and Cook counties.
ARPA funding will be used to convert a building it is acquiring in Waukegan to replace its current facility, according to Susan Resko, president and CEO. The move will greatly expand the number of people who can be served, Resko said, and an intensive adolescent program will be opened.
She said the pandemic normalized the need and created a huge demand for mental health services.
"The need never stops," Resko said. "People are talking about seeing their therapist the same way they talk about seeing their doctor."
The need also is high among first responders and veterans, said Greg Formica, chief of the Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District. The district received a retired doctor's office building on Route 134 in Round Lake as a gift and pitched the idea of the wellness center with Nicasa providing services.
ARPA funds will be used to renovate the building and create individual counseling areas and a training/group meeting space, plus pay for staff, outreach and other expenses for three years.
"I don't think many people know the toll responding to emergencies day in and day out takes on the people who do it," Formica said. "There's just a stigma with seeking help -- we're the pillars that can't be broken."