Nicasa aims to prepare Waukegan community for possible casino

Behavioral health organization hosts forum to inform community about risks of problem gambling

WAUKEGAN – Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, a nonprofit behavioral health organization, hosted a Community Casino Forum on June 17 at Genesee Theater.

After news of a potential casino broke last year, Nicasa’s outreach increased to inform the community about the risks related to problem gambling. The event brought together resources, businesses, community members and leaders from Waukegan. Recovering individuals who struggled with gambling highlighted the concern of the potential impact to individuals and communities when gambling becomes problematic.

Elizabeth Thielen, senior director of substance abuse treatment services, works with communities to help raise awareness of problem gambling and to connect those who are hurt by it to help that is available.

“Nicasa is neutral on the subject of commercial gambling, but recognizes that gambling disorders can have devastating effects on individuals, families and the community,” she said in a news release. “Casino or not, gambling is already here, and so is problem gambling. We offer free counseling and free workshops for any interested group to learn more about the subject because communities can do better when we know better.”

With a potential casino, there are hopes of economic development and job creation. However, any potential benefits would be undermined if problem gambling isn’t prevented or addressed, the release stated. The event sought to ensure that any conversations about gambling expansion include discussions about preventing problem gambling, raising awareness and supporting the efforts of those who are adversely impacted. The forum marked the beginning of those conversations.

Nicasa Behavioral Health Services is a behavioral health and social service agency that has been serving the residents of Lake County since 1966. Its mission is to transform one life at a time through behavioral and social health services, which is realized through a vision of strengthening the communities served by being the premier behavioral and social health service provider. The group provides services across a continuum of care that includes education, prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery. Its growth into an eight-site, nationally recognized leader in comprehensive substance abuse prevention and treatment is a result of its ability to seek out those in need, identify strengths and resources and deliver services that create positive choices and lifelong solutions. All services are provided in English and Spanish and include, but are not limited to, substance abuse treatment, mental health and problem gambling counseling, in-school and after-school programs, Teen Court diversion, parent education classes, family advocacy and a residential recovery halfway house for adults.