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