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Beds for children with mental health issues coming to Rockford

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — For years, children who needed in-patient mental health care were taken out of town, sometimes even out of state. A plan from SwedishAmerican Hospital will change that.

In a virtual and public meeting of the Winnebago County Mental Health Board on Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Bill Gorski, the former CEO of SwedishAmerican and a current member of the Mental Health Board, said he had heard from the interim-CEO about plans for more in-patient mental health beds.

"The ultimate plan is for a 16-bed child and adolescent unit," Dr. Gorski told the board. "Construction is to start after Labor Day and they say it will take nine months."

13 WREX independently confirmed that 16 beds for children and adolescents will be added to SwedishAmerican, but officials say construction will take one and a half to two years. The hospital will remodel an area for the facility and officials with knowledge say it is part of a larger project.

It's important to note there is a distinction between children and adolescents when it comes to to the Illinois Mental Health Code. Children are under the age of 12, while adolescents are between the ages of 12 and 18.

SwedishAmerican had beds for adolescents, but nowhere in Rockford had in-patient services for children under age 12. The Mental Health Board President Mary Ann Abate has said before that, in some cases, children would be strapped to a gurney and taken to facilities in the Chicago suburbs.

Now, this new facility will have space for them, although there will be a separation between children and adolescents. Dick Kunnert, who spent 30 years working at Singer Mental Health Center and serves as a board member on the Mental Health Board, explained the reason for the separation.

"The issue is obviously because of growth and development [and] the issues that would be between the two groups," Kunnert explains.

We will provide more information on Rockford's issues regarding child mental health services on 13 News at 10 p.m.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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