We are facing difficult times in Illinois: political gridlock, no balanced state budget for years, cuts to schools and social services, and decades of corruption. Lake County United continues to seek ways to move ahead to improve the quality of life of Lake County residents.
Quality Housing and Senior Care
In the Fall of 2016 Lake County United identified the land, secured the site, established a development team, and built the community support leading to the construction of Fairhaven Crossing, a 40-unit quality housing building in Mundelein. It is now open. All units are affordable with 12 units set aside for individuals with disabilities. Lake County United is actively looking for viable land and investors for more affordable housing across Lake County.
A New Winchester House
Finally, a new Winchester House! Over the past 9 years, LCU has continued advocacy for Winchester House, Lake County’s facility for long term health care for the elderly. Lake County United leaders have worked collaboratively with Lake County Board Members and Staff, who have a commitment to quality care for residents, as well as construction of a new Winchester House. Construction of the new facility, Thrive of Lake County at 850 US Highway 45, in Mundelein, began in December, 2018 and is now open. All residents currently at Winchester House will be guaranteed a place in the new building.
Mental Health and Supportive Housing
On average, one-third of those in the county jails and state prisons are mentally Ill, contributing to a prison recidivism rate that, in the next five years, is expected to cost Illinois more than $16.7 billion. In Lake County the top 100 highest utilizers returned to jail 8 to 17 times in one year. The delay in seeking treatment due to stigma, lack of awareness, fewer treatment options, and the scarcity of supportive housing -- has meant that jails and prisons have become the default destination for those with mental illness.
Focusing on diverting mentally ill from our criminal justice system is not only humane, but it is an avenue to address our crippling fiscal crisis and political gridlock. The savings from diverting people from jail and emergency room will allow a cost shift of funds to address preventative care.
Initially, LCU is working toward 3 goals to reduce the flow of people with mental illness into the criminal justice system:
- Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for police and sheriff in Lake County– the proven and primary way police learn to use de-escalation tactics in dealing with a person with mental illness
- Improving access to crisis stabilization centers, another component of diverting people with mental illness from the criminal justice system and towards appropriate treatment and services rather than emergency rooms.
- Increasing quality and supportive housing opportunities
In May 2015 hundreds Lake County United leaders gathered and presented these goals while seeking commitments from County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor and States Attorney Michael Nerheim to work with LCU to address these issues. The County Administrator has been directed by the county board to make mental health a priority for the county.
A total of 246 full-time sworn Lake County Officers have received 40 hours of CIT training. The Sheriff Department received Department of Justice Grant to increase training capacity. In addition 22 of 27 sheriff’s dispatchers have been trained.
LCU established Waukegan to College, a college-readiness program that currently serves 146 at risk kids from 5th to 12th grade. A total of 19 have graduated from college and 50 currently in college. What makes this program unique is the parent engagement component, not just in their child’s education but in the community.
In December LEARN Charter Network President and CEO, Greg White, formally acknowledged and thanked Lake County United for their role in educating the community about charter schools and laying the ground work for community support that ultimately led to the authorization of LEARN 9 Charter in Waukegan. LEARN 9 has 328 students K-4 enrolled. LEARN Charter has an impressive track record meeting or exceeding state academic performance standards in low-income minority communities.
LCU leaders support efforts to reduce gun violence. This issue can be a politically polarizing issue leading to no action, which is why Lake County United is working with our Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) affiliates to pressure gun manufacturers to produce smart guns, which only allow the gun owner to use the gun. This reduces accidents and reduces illegal sale of guns.
Our tax dollars buy about 40 percent of the guns in America; of this, the military buys about 25%, and law enforcement 15%. This is enormous market power. LCU leaders are asking local law enforcement to sign a Request for Proposal, to show manufacturers there is interest in smart gun technology. Lake County States Attorney Michael Nerheim signed this request. In January 2016 President Obama directed the Departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security to develop a plan to do this. The agencies’ plan, released on April 29, calls for Department of Justice to lead a collaborative effort with state and local law enforcement to develop specifications for smart guns for law enforcement applications. The Department of Defense will test and evaluate smart-gun models.
Lake County United’s primary focus is the development of institutions which nurture leaders to build strong institutions to effectively have a seat at the table of decision-making.