Agency gearing up to help area youths
URBANA — An Indianapolis-based agency that coordinates services for youth hopes to move into its new Urbana offices as soon as Monday, the executive director of the local office said.
Choices Inc. has leased 6,500 square feet on the second floor of the County Plaza building at 102 E. Main St., U, with the expectation of having about 30 employees there eventually, Todd Schroll said.
So far, about 15 employees have been hired, and the nonprofit group is still seeking care supervisors and care coordinators, he said.
Choices is setting up shop in Urbana as the result of getting a contract with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for a three-year demonstration project in East Central Illinois.
Under the contract, Choices will streamline the planning of care for youth in the DCFS system in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties.
That includes meeting with youth and families to determine what residential services and support services are needed — and then contracting with providers for those services.
The agency will work with DCFS providers, such as Cunningham Children's Home and Lutheran Social Services, and community-based providers, such as Community Elements and Prairie Center, Schroll said.
Choices was established in 1997 and was originally called Indiana Behavioral Health Choices. In the years since, it has expanded to Maryland and Washington, D.C., and parts of Louisiana and Florida.
The arrangement with DCFS stemmed from a meeting between representatives at a national conference two years ago, said Courtney Kasinger, Choices' communications director.
At the outset, most of the youth served by Choices will be middle-school to high-school age, Schroll said. The agency expects to work with about 220 youth in this area.
If the state is satisfied with the demonstration project, it's conceivable that the agency will expand its services to other parts of the state, Schroll said.
Before being hired by Choices, Schroll was interim executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board in northern Illinois.
Joining him in the Urbana office will be the clinical director, Audrey Peppers, and the provider network director, Ryan Santens.
Rounding out the staff will be three care supervisors and 21 to 24 care coordinators.
Since Choices has not yet occupied its office in Urbana, the agency has had to borrow space from Community Elements, the Champaign County Mental Health Board and ACCESS Initiative for training and meetings, Schroll said.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing issued a statement saying Choices has "a strong, national reputation for working with youth and families involved in the child welfare system."
The Champaign County Economic Development Corp. worked with Choices to help find a space locally.
Erik Kotewa, the economic development group's deputy director, said the community is "fortunate that Choice Inc. has chosen Champaign County and Urbana as their base to serve the East Central Illinois region."
Choices Inc., which will soon set up shop in Urbana, is seeking care supervisors and care coordinators:
— Pay for the care supervisors will begin at $43,000 a year, with those positions requiring a master's degree in a social services or human services-related field.
— Pay for the care coordinators will begin at $33,000 a year. Choices is seeking candidates with bachelor's degrees in social or human services, plus three years of supervised experience.