At Boocoo on Dec. 17 (left to right), J.P. Gallagher, president of Evanston Hospital; Laura Thrall, president and chief executive officer of Chicago Metropolitan United Way; Evonda Thomas, director of health and human services for the City of Evanston; and Dr. Eric Witherspoon, superintendent of School District 202, each urged collaboration.

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Twenty-five organizations from throughout Evanston have joined together to form the Evanston Network of Care. A representative from each agency signed a formal memorandum of understanding on Dec. 17 at Boocoo, stating they are committed to working collaboratively to provide services to children who experience severe cognitive, emotional, social and/or behavioral problems.

The agencies signed the compact as a step toward seeking a $1.8 million grant from the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, which is attempting to improve children’s mental health services in Illinois through its Children’s Mental Health Initiative.

ICHF said it will give “strongest consideration” to proposals that “are developed by community-based collaborations, are creative and innovative, and build upon the existing service systems and programs in their respective community.”

The grant application will be submitted on Jan. 6, 2010, and a decision on the grant is expected in April, said Laura Thrall, president and chief executive officer of Chicago Metropolitan United Way. “We are hopeful and optimistic,” she said.

Before signing the compact, J. P. Gallagher, president of Evanston Hospital, said 1 in 10 Illinois children under the age of 19 suffer from a serious mental illness severe enough to impair functioning and ability to learn, but that only 20 percent of those children receive mental health services. He listed the ways Evanston Hospital is attempting to address the mental health needs of children and said, “This is a service we are committed to providing.”

Evonda Thomas, Director of Health and Human Services for the City, said, “The timing of the compact is perfect. It encourages a pooling of resources.” She said if the agencies coordinate their efforts they can provide more comprehensive services to youth, with a greater impact.

Dr. Eric Witherspoon, superintendent of Evanston Township High School, said, “If we are going to educate kids, we have to make sure their basic needs are met.” He said, “I am excited about this network of care. It reminds me we have so many resources. If we can maximize our efforts, we can have a genuine and strong partnership; we can leverage these resources and coordinate services to families and children to make a difference. … Together we will make the difference in the lives of families and children.”  

The stated goals of the Evanston Network of Care include improving the mental health and well-being of children and youth in the City, providing services in a seamless, effective continuum of care, coordinating crisis response services, and bringing families, youth and professionals together to work as partners. The term of the compact is one year.

United Way of the North Shore coordinated the effort to bring the 25 agencies together, and it is acting as the lead agency on the grant application.

Agencies participating include: Evanston School District 202, Evanston School District 65, Youth Organization Umbrella, Evanston Community Defender, SHORE Community Services, Evanston Police Department, North Shore University Healthcare System, Center for Independent Futures, Turning Point, McGaw YMCA, Connections for the Homeless, Childcare Network of Evanston, Metropolitan Families Services, Family Focus, Evanston Coalition for Latino Resources, Parent Teachers Organization, Family Institute at Northwestern University, C4- SASS Agency, State’s Attorney for Northern District of Illinois, Probation Supervisor for Northern District of Illinois, Childcare Center of Evanston, YWCA Evanston/North Shore, Citizens for Appropriate Special Education and City of Evanston.