State’s first lady visits local crisis unit

Edith Brady-Lunny | Jan 18, 2017

BLOOMINGTON — Illinois first lady Diana Rauner visited with staff and a client at Chestnut Health Systems’ crisis stabilization unit Tuesday during her tour of the facility for people struggling with drug and alcohol additions and/or mental illness.

The 14-bed stabilization unit, approaching it’s second year of operation in April, offers short-term residential care, including medically monitored detox services. Since August, about 50 people have been turned away for services because the need, especially in the face of growing opioid use, outpaced space, according to Chestnut.

Rauner met with McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre, County Administrator Bill Wasson and Chestnut officials before touring the facility. State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, accompanied Rauner on the event.

During a brief meeting with a client who has been at the facility for two weeks, Rauner learned that Chestnut is managing care for people with complex issues.

The man, who described himself as “a chronic relapser,” told the governor’s wife: “I might have more problems than alcohol, like depression and anxiety. No other place I’ve been said I might have mental issues. I’m doing a lot better.”

After the tour, Rauner said she was “excited and grateful to have an opportunity to learn about behavioral health services here and across our state.”

Chestnut Chief Operating Officer Alan Sender said the agency appreciated Rauner’s interest “in seeing what we’re doing here and understanding what mental health issues we have in Illinois. She came to the right place.”

The unit opened in 2015 after a $400,000 remodeling project that included replacement of walls with impact resistant materials and new furnishings for the 24-hour unit.

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In a report to the McLean County Behavioral Health Committee, Chestnut indicated that most of its detox care is given to clients addicted to opioids, an issue for many communities in Illinois.

The numbers of drug-related deaths in Illinois increased between 2013 and 2015, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Deaths from all drugs saw a steady increase from 1,579 in 2013 to 1,700 in 2014 and 1,836 in 2015. Opioid deaths saw similar upward movement for the three-year period, going from 1,072 in 2013 to 1,382 in 2015.

Illinois has one of the highest rates of heroin overdose deaths in the country, recording 844 in 2015. That was an almost 70 percent increase from 2013.

McLean County’s heroin death rate doubled from four to eight during the three-year period, according to IDPH data.

Preliminary 2016 records covering drug-related deaths between Jan. 1 and Dec. 19 indicated heroin deaths dropped from eight to four, according to McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis. Opioids were the cause of 16 of the 18 deaths attributed to all drugs, said the coroner.

The average age of an opioid overdose victim in McLean County was 41, said Davis.

The Heroin Crisis Act passed by Illinois lawmakers in 2015 allows the state’s Medicaid program to pay the cost of heroin addiction treatment. Advocates for drug treatment estimate that about 80 percent of those addicted to heroin and other opioids lack insurance to pay for treatment.