The Advantage Group (TAG) Makes Case, Gets Permission to Apply for Competitive Mental Health Board Funds

The Advantage Group’s Pat Owens said 708 Board staff were targeting her TAG organization for extinction.

Fighting for her alcohol and drug abuse agency’s life Pat Owens, the Executive Director of The Advantage Group (TAG, for short) brought her plea to the McHenry County Mental Health Board during the Public Comment period at the beginning of the meeting.

Kathy Garrey, in charge of Quality Assurance & Compliance, bore the brunt of Pat Owen’s presentation.

It was the second time had heard Owens on the subject.

The last time was the day that the Family Services Agency told a County Board Committee it had found a savior in West Central Illinois. (That didn’t work out and Family Services went under.)

Jordan told how TAG counselors were always available to him.

Owens charged that her agency had been “targeted with a witch hunt” that had resulted in her agency’s having been excluded from the 708 Mental Health Board’s Three-Year program which included the “too big to fail agencies.”

Lisa explained that her just graduated from high school daughter was going to college “clean and sober.”

Owens explained how her agency had passed Federal and State muster, but “new, punitive procedures” and “a new definition of eligibility” which excluded adolescents as potential clients was an attempt to drive the agency out of business.

There certainly seems to be a big fight going on, but I surely could not figure out what caused it.

Eric and his wife Ann said TAG had saved their oldest daughter’s life.

Owens claimed 708 Board staff had “tried to convince [their] DASA [?] auditor to reverse [his] findings.”

She added, “There is evidence of an agenda to target TAG right out of existence, to serve to justify what has happened after the fact.”

Owens talked of 25 years of service and bemoaned how her agency’s demise “will result in the loss of meaningful drug abuse treatment” now that Family Services has folded.

She claimed getting none of the 2013 Fiscal Year property tax dollars following getting nothing in FY 2012 would “deliver the fatal blow to TAG…before any audit [with] no recommendation for remediation.

A second Ann said Pat Owens “saved our family.”

After she talked, a stream of clients and relatives of clients spoke on behalf of TAG.

“[We’re] send off a clean and sober senior to college this fall [with the help of TAG], Lisa said.

Parents Eric and Ann told of how TAG “save my oldest daughter’s life.”

TAG client Dave thanked God for TAG’s helping him kick drugs.

“I can’t for the life of me figure out what’ going on,” Ann added.

“I can’t figure out what the heck is going on.”

“Pat came in and saved our family,” a second Ann revealed. “She was there for us.”

A young man named Dave revealed he was currently in drug treatment.

“Thank God I had TAG and all of their staff to help me out.”

He told of trying to earn his GED, but having failed the Constitution Tet.

This high school guidance counselor said Pat Owns would meet with here “instantly.”

When he explained that one of the TAG counselors gave him “The Constitution for Dummies,” it brought smiles all around.

When it got time to talk about the Three-Year Plan it became evident that hearing from clients and their family members had had a significant impact upon the Board members.

A local high school guidance counselor concluded the TAG supporters.

She said she was on the organization’s board and that Owens “will meet with me instantly,” that TAG provided “treatment and after care.”

Board member Connee Meschini brought up the subject of including TAG in the list of those agencies that could apply for “competitive” grants.

Later in the meeting, Board Secretary Connee Meschini was the first to bring up including TAG in the Three-Year Plan.

“I think TAG should be included.

“To approve this without an agency on it, I do not think [is right].”

The outgoing Executive Director Sandy Lewis, whose resignation was accepted at the meeting, said that Owens had “led us to believe she was not going to [submit] a 2013 application.

“I don’t think she should be excluded from the competitive [part of the grant money].”

“I don’t see any reason not to add them,” former County Board Vice Chairman added. “Together we should work out a work plan.”

A motion was made to include TAG as one of the agencies that could compete for the $3 million in competitive grants passed without dissent.


The Advantage Group (TAG) Makes Case, Gets Permission to Apply for Competitive Mental Health Board Funds — 5 Comments

  1. I have been associated with TAG since 1990, first as an employee for 5 years and later as a member of the Board.

    Currently I serve as the Board President.

    The history of a less than collegial relationship with the 708 Board is long standing.

    Unfortunately, despite the level of work done by TAG over the years for county residents, Pat and TAG have been the consistent target of attacks, witchhunts and harrassment by the 708 Board members.

    This latest round is by far the most damaging to TAG”s future existence, but it is not the only one in a very shameful history.

    I admit to not understanding the way the Board has operated over the years.

    They seem to select their fair-haired children and fund them without regard to work or fiscal accountability.

    The rest, usually smaller non-political agencies and then do their best to make them disappear with the seeming intent to allow the 708 Board to assume any funding earmarked for those agencies form other sources.

    I have to admit after watching the way they have treated a well established and fiscally sound operation like TAG, I am glad my personal tax dollars are not going to that Board.

    I have been in the treatment community for over 25 years.

    I have worked closely with DASA in a variety of roles.

    I have never, before this, heard a DASA employee complain about the harrassment of a county entity to attempt to have them change audit results.

    That to me is beyond the pale of ethical treatment by a political entity.

    And who gets hurt?

    County taxpayers and their children.

    TAG has served McHenry County well for a quarter century.

    No one was ever turned away due to money concerns.

    Tag took the economy out of treatment for their clients.

    No other agency that I am familiar with has done that.

    If TAG goes away, where will the children and young adults go?

    Pat Owens is an old war horse in the treatment field.

    While others were squandering resources, she was producing results.

    And now the Board in its infinite wisdom wants to put her and TAG out of business!

    As it says on the back of Highlights Magazine, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

  2. I have worked with TAG in a variety of capacities; first as an intern in a master’s degree program, then as a member of the board, and now as a school guidance counselor who refers several students a year to TAG.

    Pat Owens is invaluable to me as a guidance counselor when I have a stubbornly addicted student who refuses to respond to adults in our building.

    With one phone call Pat will agree to meet the student on a moment’s notice.

    The “old war horse” as the above reply describes her, cuts through all the BS with hardened kids and gets right to the heart of their issues.

    I have been in education for 25 years and can say that Pat is the only person I have worked with who can establish an immediate trusting relationship with a teen addict.

    What this means is those kids will stay with her and work a program.

    Pat has never refused a family treatment because they could not pay.

    I have had many students return to school from other county agencies and because insurance ran out could no longer receive services.

    To me that is unethical, unacceptable and just an indication of funding mismanagement.

    If I didn’t know better, I would say that the members of the 708 board are resentful, even jealous that Pat Owens runs a fiscally responsible, successful treatment facility.

    Pat Owens and TAG are here for our kids.

    Our kids are dying of substance abuse and if the 708 board continues to play games with defining eligibility to exclude teens, we will continue to lose our kids.

    As a taxpayer, I am disgusted that the 708 board chooses to mismanage my money and horrified that they do not believe the lives of our teens are worth saving.

  3. Our son was like many kids.

    He was kind, did well in school, worked, had great friends and was very involved in sports.

    He even continued to play football and wrestle in high school.

    Unfortunately, like many other McHenry County teens, he also discovered drugs.

    I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the Advantage Group saved our family.

    Our lives were completely out of control due to our son’s addiction.

    In fact, it was so dire that my husband and I actually felt like prisoners in our own home.

    TAG’s staff worked with our entire family and restored normalcy and peace to our home.

    Words can never express what the Advantage Group’s staff did for us and we will always be extremely grateful.

    It is devasting to imagine that they may not be there for the next family.

    We hope that the board will do the right thing so that TAG can continue helping and saving the children and families of McHenry County.

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