Grant helps Skokie mental health facility maintain operation amid budget crisis

Stavros Agorakis, Reporter

A mental health institution in Skokie has been awarded a $300,000 grant by the North Suburban Healthcare Foundation to help support the continuation of its services amid the budget crisis.

Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center is a non-profit organization based in Skokie, which serves as an outpatient mental health center and provides care to residents from Evanston and the surrounding suburbs.

“Psychiatry services are critical to over 50 percent of our client base of individuals, many of which struggle with severe and persistent mental illness,” said Ann Fisher Raney, Turning Point’s chief executive officer and an Evanston resident, in a news release.

NSHF vice chairman Donald Perille said the organization has reviewed hundreds of applications since it began giving grants in 2009, the year of a merger between Skokie Hospital, formerly known as Rush North Shore Medical Center, and Evanston Hospital. NSHF chairman Bev Kroll said board members found Turning Point’s application met their goals and felt its staff would put a lot of effort into providing mental health services.

“They do a terrific job and they’re very helpful to people that have mental problems,” Kroll said. “They have a very nice approach.”

As for the NSHF’s future plans, however, both Kroll and Perille agreed that they will have to cut back on donations, as the foundation has slowly begun to run out of money due to its ambitious funding projects in the past.

“We actually put ourselves out of business because we never put ourselves in fundraising mode,” Perille said.

The $300,000 gift will help supplement Turning Point’s budget in the midst of the state financial crisis, which has frozen state funding to many social service organizations throughout Illinois.

“This is an inspirational gift received at a critical time,” Raney said in the release. “As state support for community mental health diminishes, we must continue to find creative and sustainable ways to ensure that our clients and families have all the resources they need in their recovery journeys.”

In 2012, Turning Point applied for and received a $250,000 grant in order to support a new nursing program, as a result of a revision to the Illinois state budget that limited funding allocated for psychiatry staffing, Perille said. Despite the grant funding, he said office space for psychiatry staff members was too limited, considering the non-profit only occupied half of a building at 8324 Skokie Blvd. Perille said the NSHF decided to help the organization out further.

“I turned to my fellow trustees, and I said ‘I have an idea,’” Perille said. “We have the money, wouldn’t it be great if we bought the other half of the building for them and then Turning Point could come closer to fulfilling the mission they had set for themselves.”

Perille said his proposal was met with unanimous enthusiasm by the rest of the foundation’s board members, who immediately agreed to donate an additional $900,000 to Turning Point for the acquisition of the other half of the building on Skokie Boulevard, bringing the grant total to nearly $1.2 million.

“You never saw so many people crying at one turn,” Perille said. “It was just a total shock. I’ve always maintained that there was some divine intervention because I had to be one of the people who knew of the history of the building.”

In addition to Turning Point, the NSHF has financially backed other community service organizations in Skokie, Evanston, Morton Grove and Niles, among them the Erie Evanston/Skokie Family Health Center, The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired and the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center.

Kroll said the NSHF aims to fund organizations that collaborate with one another to provide the best possible service to their patients.

“We gave them bricks and mortar in the beginning,” Kroll said. “We wanted to do something that would really help the community with places that people could go to and get help.”

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