“Am I going to have to leave?” the young man asked with uncertainty to TAG Pat Owens as my interview was winding down.
He had been told that because of The Advantage Group’s closing there would be no group session today.
Started in Cary in 1988, TAG shut down operations on Wednesday.
“I had PO’s (probation officers from McHenry County) calling crying,” Owens said.
“Where else will we send them?” one who wanted TAG to take a client asked.
Within the last week, calls came from the following high schools:
- Crystal Lake Central
- Prairie Ridge
Now TAG needs to transition about 37 young people.
What did TAG do?
“Immediate assessment,” Owens explained.
“Kids in trouble [who] need to [be] evaluated.
“[TAG is] the only one who does quantitative drug testing.”
“Quantitative drug testing” is more than a positive or negative reading; it tells how much.
“We provided a unique niche,” plus providing “a pulse beat of what’s emerging in the community because kids talk to us.
“We did one thing and one thing well.
“We were effective with dealing with adolescents and young adults.
“That’s all we wanted to do.
“That was our expertise and specialty.
“It’s taking a residential [model] and applying it in the community.
“We provided open access.”
Democratic Party Board member Paula Yensen brought forth FaceBook postings in favor of Republican candidate for Sheriff Bill Prim and seemed to accuse TAG, a not-for-profit organization, of supporting Prim because a campaign-financed picnic was held on September 13 in the building’s patio area.
“She [Yensen] said she would not proceed if I rescinded my request for emergency funds,” Owens revealed.
Owens did so on September 17. [You can read the story here.]
“Then she [Yensen] not only made public comment at the Mental Health Board meeting [after the request was withdrawn], but distributed [copies of the FaceBook posts] at the [County Board’s] Public Health Committee meeting.
[GOP opponent Andrew Zinke reported accepting $1,000 from Cary CrimeStoppers on August 26. A letter from Zinke’s treasurer was received at the State Board of Elections on September 13, saying it was “a computer input error.”]
Owens described McHenry County as “a place where the political interests supersedes the needs of the
She explained that the Board has said there would be mediation.
“No one even talked to us.”
One of the complaints of a 708 Board audit on TAG was that it was billing for funds to match Medicaid payments.
“The 708 Board [told us] we can match Medicaid. [It was an] initiative of the Mental Health Board.
“It’s in my contract.
“That’s what they reported me to the Office of Inspector General for.”
When Owens talked to the Inspector General’s Office, “They said, ‘No you can’t.'”
Owens said that TAG had not asked for Medicaid matching in Kane County.
“We did nothing wrong,” Owens said.
“TAG straight up has never done anything wrong, has never done anything but serve clients and has only sought to defend itself.”
She also revealed this is “not the first time that TAG has been under attack.”
It happened ten years ago, too.
“It’s really about the client right now.”
She said she was trying to place about thirty of them in other programs.
Owens also pointed out that TAG has provided the same level of service without 708 Board financial support for the last two years.
“We have an open environment. We have people coming back [after finishing the program] five years [later].”
Two years ago TAG “had $900,000 in cash reserves,” Owens said.
“We could actually have survived without Mental Health Board funding.
“Fighting them, trying to work with them to save them face took us down.
“I should have closed two months ago.”
Owens has a $260,000 grant from the Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.
“The community will lose a $260,000 grant. I brought it to the community.”
Owens believes with the state’s financial problems getting the money for another agency will be unlikely.
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Regional Superintendent of Education Leslie Schermerhorn issued the following statement:
“It is a sad state of affairs when an agency that provides an important service to our community is closed due to political mudslinging and misinformation.
“It is a sad state in McHenry County when so many of us refuse to believe there is a drug problem among multitudes of McHenry County youth.”It is a sad day when a child first experiments with drugs.
“It is a tragic day when a teen progresses to serious drug use and addiction.
“It is unbearable when one of our own community dies from a drug overdose.
“As of today, the McHenry County community has one less resource for children who have substance abuse issues and their families.
“TAG has been serving the McHenry County community for over 26 years.
“Unlike the two remaining facilities, TAG offered immediate quantitative drug testing and individual treatment plans to students who had experience with drugs.
“Schools could refer students caught with drugs or using drugs to TAG and get next day results as opposed to having to wait a week or more.
“The leaders of McHenry County and the Mental Health Board did not even attempt to mediate the allegations and differences they had with TAG. Perhaps we all should aim to put the needs of children and all people in this county before our own political agendas.”
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You can read testimonials about TAG in this article.