In June, Riverside Township began offering mental health services at a new onsite resource center, which was funded through a Riverside Township Mental Health Board grant of $69,224. 

The grant was awarded in April to three local services to collaborate at one center so local residents could access mental health treatment more efficiently.  

Following a community needs assessment conducted in the fall of 2017, the Mental Health Board concluded that there was a need to address the issues of addiction, challenges with disabilities and elderly adult care in the township. 

The three organizations that were approached to part take include Aging Care Connections based out of La Grange, UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago in Cicero and The Way Back Inn in Maywood. Each of the organizations specializes in one of the major issues identified in the assessment.

Aging Care Connections provides programs and social services for people over the age of 60. UCP Seguin provides social services and programs for children and adults with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities. Way Back Inn provides services for those suffering from alcohol, drug or gambling addiction.

Riverside Township trustee and Mental Health Board president Tim Heilenbach said the resource center will provide a new means of treatment access in the township and raise awareness of the board’s purpose.

“We just wanted to get things done,” Heilenbach said. “And we got to figure out what the community needs. The township provides social services to the residents of the township. You got to expand. You got to get out of the box a little bit, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Heilenbach said the grant funded phone lines, desks, computers and an office area, which is located in Riverside Township Hall. 

An employee from each organization works in the resource center throughout the week and acts as a community care coordinator. They refer patients to one of the three organizations or to another outside agency, if needed. 

One community care coordinator, Susan Bertuglia, is a social worker from Aging Care Connections. She said the collaboration between all three organizations under one roof has broadened her knowledge of the mental health landscape and helps solve the number of issues in the community. 

“We all have our own specialties, but we communicate a lot with each other and, obviously, there are various needs out in the community and one organization can’t address them all,” she said.

John Shustizky, a consultant with the Riverside Mental Health Board and professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said the center serves as a way for patients to get referred to an organization at their convenience. 

“When folks are ready to get help – and get that help quickly and without a lot of red tape – they’re more likely to follow through,” Shustizky said. “If folks are put on hold, they’re put on a waiting list or they’re transferred from one person to the next, [they] often get discouraged and don’t follow through on getting the help they need.”

During the week, Bertuglia is available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A coordinator from UCP Seguin will be available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and a coordinator from The Way Back Inn is available on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Patients are encouraged to call 708-853-9578 or walk-in. Riverside Township Hall is located at 27 Riverside Road in Riverside.