Vermilion nonprofits may join forces

DANVILLE — For a number of years, the Center for Children's Services and Aunt Martha's Vermilion Area Community Health Center have joined forces to provide social and health services to residents, many of whom have little or no insurance.

Now officials are taking steps to merge the two Danville not-for-profit agencies.

"This has really been inspired by a desire to combine resources and really integrate our services so that we can improve access to care to folks in the community and take a more comprehensive, holistic approach to their care," said Ed Michaels, the center's chief executive officer.

He added that a merger will not affect any of the services the agencies now provide.

Established as a children's home in 1894, the Center for Children's Services, at 702 N. Logan Ave., serves nearly 2,000 people a year, Michaels said.

It provides a wide array of services to youths, as well as their families. Those services include individual, group and family counseling, psychological evaluations, crisis intervention, education programs for teen parents and pregnant teens, therapeutic youth mentoring and advocacy, parenting and in-home support services, a doula program, an intensive outpatient program and job training, among others.

Aunt Martha's at 614 N. Gilbert St. serves more than 5,000 clients per year in the Vermilion County area, according to Tom Owens, communications director of Aunt Martha's Youth Service Center in Olympia Fields.

The health center was started by volunteers in 1994 to provide affordable health and mental health care to low-income residents. It merged with Aunt Martha's Youth Service Center in 2004 to become a federally qualified health clinic, allowing it to serve those on Medicare and Medicaid.

The health center provides primary and preventive health care, dental care and behavioral health care and medication assistance. It also has provided family planning services, which includes medical exams, pregnancy testing, contraceptive supplies and educational services, and family case management services, which links pregnant women to prenatal care and infants and children to appropriate medical care, since the Vermilion County Health Department discontinued those services.

Since the two agencies began working together, with approval from the Illinois Department of Human Services, they have been able to increase psychiatric services to youth by 800 percent and mental health services by 25 percent, Michaels said.

"We have always been thinking about ways we could partner to improve those services," he said, adding officials have discussed the idea of a merger for close to a year.

He said staff from both agencies drafted a memorandum of understanding — the first step in establishing a formal merger — and both boards recently approved it.

"We're still working out the details of how this might look and how it might be structured," he said, adding he hopes those details will be ironed out "very soon.

"I would expect that both facilities would continue to be in existence."

Owens said Aunt Martha's officials are excited about the merger and opportunity to improve services and access to care.

"We're essentially creating an organization that will be unlike any other organization in the state," he said.

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