Tinley Park mental health facility to close

TINLEY PARK In Tinley Park, one state-operated mental health center will close, while another will be restructured. It's a decision that impacts more than 300 patients, their families and almost 700 workers.

State officials say it was a difficult decision to close Howe Developmental Center.

"I think the realistic thing is they want to sell the property so i think that's unfair to the workers and residents," said Chris Serrano, whose sister is at Howe.

The shock that Serrano said she felt when she found out Friday the state plans to close Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park next year has turned into anger. Serrano's sister has lived their for 15 years.

"My sister only knows this faculty. This is her daily routine," said Serrano.

Her sister is one of 315 developmentally disabled residents at Howe who will either be relocated to smaller, community-based homes or state facilities further away. Those options don't go over well with Betty Turturillo, whose daughter has lived in Howe since it opened in 1972. She said she wants it to stay open.

"It has been good for her. I moved to Tinley Park to be near her. I'm 10 minutes away," said Turturillo, of the Howe Family and Friends Association.

Turturillo attended an announcement by the Illinois Department of Human Services that Howe will close in July of 2009. Howe and neighboring Tinley Park Mental Center have come under fire in recent years, losing federal funding for providing substandard care and lax recordkeeping.

"The decision was clearly a result of exhaustive efforts to determine how to allocate scarce and inadequate resources to ensure quality of care in state operated centers," said State Rep. Kathy Ryg, (D) 59th District.

Once the residents are removed from Howe, it will close for good. Tinley Park Mental Health Center will be restructured, a process starting with consolidating patients and staff to one building for a few years, until a new facility is built in the south suburbs in 2011. State officials say they will also try to relocate employees, but one union rep says they will fight to keep Howe open.

"We will not cooperate with them in the closing of this center," said Louis Volpi, AFSCE Council 31.

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