After many years of pressing and building relationships in Evanston among people and institutions that want better results for people with mental illness, on Monday March 28, 2022, the Evanston City Council approved $900,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to develop a mental health “Living Room” in Evanston. The Living Room is a welcoming and safe space for persons in mental health crisis to receive immediate care.
United Power for Action and Justice (UP) has been advocating for several years to improve mental health services in Cook County. Diversion of people in crisis from jail has been the focus of our efforts through advocating for Crisis Intervention Team training of Evanston, Skokie, and Rogers Park Police officers and supporting an alternative to the Hospital Emergency Room.
Ann Raney, Chief Executive Officer of Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center in Skokie will direct the Living Room in Evanton in partnership with Impact Behavioral Health, PEER services, Trilogy Behavioral Health, and Amita St. Francis Hospital. A total of eleven members of St. Nicholas Catholic and St. Luke Episcopal Churches in Evanston and St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Park Ridge, all members of United Power, were present in person at the City Council meeting. Public comment in support of the project was provided by Yvonne Smith, of St. Nicholas Church, Cindy Castro, Manager of the Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic at St.Francis, and co-chair of Evanston’s Mental Health Task Force, and Christine Somerville, the Program Director at National Alliance on Mental Illness Cook County North Suburban. St. Francis Hospital owns a bungalow that, after renovations, will house the Living Room program. Persons in need will have a short walk from the hospital to the Living Room to receive psychiatric counseling and wrap-around service they may need to stabilize their condition. The St. Nick’s UP team met with Turning Point, St. Francis Hospital, and Northshore University Health System (Evanston Hospital) over several years to advocate for the expansion of mental health services for people in crisis. With the support of Mayor Biss and initiatives started by aldermen on the Evanston City Council the decision to use ARPA funds for this project became a reality.