NEW LENOX – Mental health experts say there should be 40 to 50 mental health beds per 100,000 people.
In Will and Grundy counties, there are only 10.15 mental health beds per 100,000 people.
Silver Cross Hospital and US HealthVest have teamed up to do something about that.
A proposed two-story, 68,000-square-foot, 100-bed behavioral health hospital was announced Wednesday morning. The project is expected to cost $22 million, $19 million of which will be devoted to construction.
It will be called Silver Oaks Hospital.
The facility will bring 200 new health care jobs to Will County. The staff will treat adolescents, women, seniors and chemically dependent patients, regardless of insurance status.
“One out of every four Americans, unfortunately, suffers from mental illness or substance abuse,” Silver Cross Hospital President and CEO Paul Pawlak said.
Silver Cross has explored this possibility for several months. In December, the hospital’s board approved the construction of a psychiatric hospital on the New Lenox campus, Pawlak said, which is located on Route 6 near Interstate 355.
“If all goes well, we are hoping the hospital will be ready in early 2019,” Pawlak said.
US HealthVest is a provider of behavioral health services that operates Chicago Behavioral Hospital in Des Plaines and is developing another one in northern Chicago. It operates two psychiatric hospitals in Atlanta and will open one near Seattle this year.
“They’re a firm that has far more expertise in mental health, chemical abuse and substance abuse than most community hospitals, including Silver Cross,” Pawlak said.
The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board will have to approve an application in order for the facility to be built. If that happens, construction is expected to start in 2017.
US HealthVest will bring programs that the hospital currently doesn’t have, despite its current capacity of 20 behavioral health beds at Silver Cross. Those beds will move to Silver Oaks and be part of the 100-bed count.
Silver Cross Senior Vice President of Business Development Ruth Colby said Silver Oaks will be a short-term facility that does acute treatment of mental illness and substance abuse conditions, with numerous outpatient programs that patients will be enrolled in.
Colby said construction will be fully funded by US HealthVest and patients won’t have to worry about getting denied based on insurance arrangements.
“Everybody will be welcome to come to Silver Oaks Hospital,” Colby said. “Regardless of their insurance or lack of insurance.”
Silver Oaks Hospital born out of need
New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said during his 22-year career in law enforcement, he often saw people who suffered from some form of mental illness that were thrown into the criminal justice system because “we didn’t know what to do.”
“It was not the right answer,” said Baldermann, who had a brother commit suicide at 19. “It continues to be a problem. In my opinion, in this country, our inability to acknowledge and deal with mental illness is one of our biggest problems.”
He said Silver Cross coming to New Lenox was one of the best things to happen to the community.
“As the mayor of this community, it’s absolutely my pleasure to stand here today and say that I welcome this expansion,” Baldermann said.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow called Silver Oaks “nothing short of a Godsend.”
When the state closed Tinley Park Mental Health Center in 2012, it created a gap in mental health services.
In a county of almost 700,000 people, Silver Oaks is long overdue, Glasgow said. He credited Pawlak, going back to 1995 when he helped the Children’s Advocacy Center get off the ground.
Domestic violence court, drug court, mental health court, veterans court and the Redeploy Illinois program will all benefit from Silver Oaks, Glasgow said.
“All of these courts, in order to be functioning at their peak, need a facility like this,” he said.