Northwest Herald is reporting today on the demise of The Advantage Group. This is a bad thing. Going back to my days as a fresh-faced attorney in the McHenry County Juvenile Court system, I’ve had a lot of clients involved in T.A.G. While I’m not a huge fan of a lot of substance abuse programs, I always respected T.A.G. It’s really a shame that things having nothing to do with the success of the kids in the program are what has forced it to close its doors:
“The Advantage Group, based in Crystal Lake, shut down for lack of funding. The group lost funding from the McHenry County Mental Health Board last year after an audit revealed multiple fiscal irregularities, and another controversy scrapped a last-ditch effort to secure a $49,000 payment to stay afloat.
The group unsuccessfully took the Mental Health Board to court, and the audit prompted an ongoing state investigation into TAG’s finances. Executive Director Pat Owens pinned blame for the closing squarely on the board, which disburses property-tax revenue to agencies working with the mentally ill and disabled.”
If you haven’t seen, the McHenry County Mental Health board has (rightfully) come under fire lately. It’s never good to see politics getting in the way of helping kids recover. It looks like T.A.G. may not have been immune, though:
The Mental Health Board, most of whom are new members after a significant County Board shakeup, was poised last month to give TAG the $49,000 payment. But Owens abruptly withdrew the request the morning of the scheduled vote. It was later revealed that TAG was asked to do so because of allegations the group had violated its tax-exempt status by endorsing political candidates.
I’m not going to claim to know Pat Owens. I have enough experience with the program to believe that after decades of working with these kids, though, she didn’t intend to do anything to jeopardize T.A.G’s future. I believe it when she says the political endorsements are a mistake and she didn’t know it was a “no-no” for a tax exempt organization.
Even if it weren’t, it’s still sad to see a good program die for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the program. It’s difficult enough to get good rehabilitation programs in McHenry County, the county can’t afford to lose one. Especially a good one.