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Joliet OKs $400,000 for public mental health

New program aimed at making therapists available to people in need

The city is spending $400,000 for a program aimed at increasing the availability of mental health care in Joliet.

The money will be used to cover bills for uninsured and under-insured clients through a new city partnership with Thriveworks, a private provider, and Silver Cross Hospital.

Funding for the program is likely to come from $22.2 million that Joliet is receiving from the federal government in COVID-19 relief through the American Rescue Plan.

The Joliet Fire Department helped develop the program to speed up delivery of mental health services for people who might wait weeks to see a therapist or never see one at all.

Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Carey in a presentation to the City Council in May said calls for mental health services were increasing and now accounted for 15% of all ambulance calls. But many of those people are hospitalized and released without ever getting into a program for mental health care, he said.

“We’re going to make sure their basic needs are being met, and we’re going to make sure their mental health needs are being met,” Carey told the council on May 2.

This week, Carey said the new office for Thriveworks is being set up in the Silver Cross Professional Building at 1051 Essington Road and is expected to be fully operational by August. The goal is for patients to begin seeing a therapist in a day or two rather than waiting weeks by making more therapists available, he said.

The city money would be used to cover bills for Joliet residents who do not have health insurance or have insufficient insurance to pay for treatment.

The council unanimously approved the $400,000, which was not in the budget and required a budget amendment. Council member Larry Hug said the money should come from the federal COVID-19 relief funds available to the city, and City Manager James Capparelli said he believed those funds would be used.

The council has the authority to decide how the American Rescue Plan funds are used.

Until now, the city has only spent about $1.4 million of the funds on body cameras for the police department.