KishHealth officials host merger forum

Mental health major talking point at community meeting

SYCAMORE – KishHealth System officials said they plan to address communitywide concern over mental health care access in DeKalb County but have no plans to open an inpatient mental health unit in the near future, KishHealth President and CEO Kevin Poorten said Wednesday.

“We do have limited resources,” he told a crowd at the Gathertorium during an informational meeting hosted by the DeKalb County Board. “Just like any business.”

KishHealth leaders used the community forum to provide information and answer questions about how it would operate as part of Northwestern Medicine. Northwestern Medicine’s parent company, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, acquired KishHealth in a deal that was finalized Dec. 1.

KishHealth operates two hospitals, the 98-bed Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb and the 25-bed Valley West Hospital in Sandwich, and more than a dozen clinics and health facilities in the DeKalb County area, including the Ben Gordon Center, which KishHealth acquired in the fall.

“Partnering with Ben Gordon, that is truly a good way to demonstrate our commitment to behavioral health in the community,” said Michael Kokott, assistant vice president of marketing and planning for KishHealth.

KishHealth plans to expand services under the Ben Gordon umbrella by creating an intensive outpatient treatment program for youth who struggle with substance abuse and add group therapy for adults, Kokott said.

“We’re targeting to open that as early perhaps as this summer,” he said.

The youth program would be based at one of the existing Ben Gordon Center locations, most likely at 12 Health Services Drive and potentially at the First Street location as well, said Kim Volk, director of KishHealth System Behavioral Health Services, the department responsible for oversight of Ben Gordon Center.

Intensive outpatient programs provide a higher level of care than traditional, weekly counseling services, but are a step below partial hospitalization programs, Volk said.

“Typically, that has to be a minimum of nine hours a week,” she said. “But often times it is more than that.”

Officials are in the process of hiring the staff and deciding on treatment models and programming, she said.

Throughout the meeting, KishHealth officials emphasized their collaborative efforts with other agencies such as Safe Passage to get resources to residents. Members of the public voiced concern and asked questions of officials, including a few questions about inpatient health facilities.

KishHealth had been criticized for closing its six-bed inpatient mental health unit in 2009. Officials said Wednesday that 50 percent of the time, over the course of two years, the unit had no patients.

“If one person needs inpatient treatment in DeKalb County, there is a need,” Poorten said. “Now, whether we are best situated to provide the resources and commitment and everything that is needed to run a high-quality, efficient, effective inpatient unit – those are two different things.”

Those who need inpatient mental health care could be transferred to Northwestern’s recently expanded Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

“The nice advantage of (Central DuPage Hospital) is that they also have adolescent inpatient, which we found to be very beneficial” said Joe Dant, vice president of business development with KishHealth.

Transitional care should go more smoothly if patients go from inpatient to outpatient care in same hospital network, he said. Clients at Central DuPage Hospital could transition more seamlessly back to outpatient care in DeKalb County because their records would be synced.

“But patient preference trumps all,” he added. “If a patient doesn’t want to go to CDH, they don’t have to go to CDH.”