Mental health's big local tent

40+ agencies at resource fair Saturday

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By Deb Kadin

On Saturday, Percy Julian Middle School will become the one-stop shop for anyone needing to learn more about Oak Park mental health services – and more.

A social services resource fair will be sponsored by the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the middle school, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

 "People are in crisis. They've experienced a death in the family, or they've become homeless. There are people in financial crisis, or there's domestic violence. Perhaps a family member has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Families can come here and learn how they can receive help," said Vanessa Matheny, the health board's project coordinator.

The mental health board provides programs and services in the areas of mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse. And the board decided to bring together the nearly 50 partnering agencies under one roof so that clients can get the necessary information and resources, said Matheny.

Among the groups taking part will be West Suburban PADS, Parenthesis, Seguin Services, Parenthesis Family Center, Pillars, Thrive Counseling Center and Sarah's Inn. Groups as varied as the Collaboration for Early Childhood and the Oak Park Arts Council also will be present.

Local politicians will also be on hand. State Rep. LaShawn Ford will be answering questions and representatives from the offices of Sen. Don Harmon and Attorney General Lisa Madigan are also expected.

Organizations will explain new programs that will be starting up or familiarizing people with services such as the drop-in center organized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They can sign up or get more information on family support or peer support classes or a wide variety of other services, said Matheny.

"You'd be surprised how unfamiliar people are about programs," she said. "At times people don't want to ask a lot of questions and just ensure they are getting exactly what they need. They may not realize that the family would benefit from family support groups. This is the place where they can learn all of that."

While a majority of township funds go toward Oak Park agencies, the board works with groups based in River Forest, Cicero, Brookfield, Berwyn, Maywood and Chicago.

The fair comes at an important time because more people are in need of information on where to receive mental health services. Last year 1,043 new people were using mental health services locally. That's a total of 12,466 hours of service in the areas of counseling, outpatient therapy, homeless outreach, assessment, family support and crisis services, Matheny said.

For more information, call Matheny at 708-358-8855.

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