The Advantage Group (T.A.G.) is gone. This is a shame.

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.

No Rehab in Bull Valley’s Back Yard!

Interesting article in the Northwest Herald today.  It seems that somebody has proposed polluting the pristine woodlands and rolling hills of Bull Valley with a “Rehab Center.”  According to the article:

“Representatives from La Voie Inc. appeared in front of the Bull Valley zoning board Monday night for a public hearing on a special permit for a group home for adolescent and adult males recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.”

Now, I used the term “polluting” facetiously.  The local residents, on the other hand, would not:

“Residents voiced concerns about declining property values, noise and traffic that would come with the business, Keinz said.
Todd Scheel, who lives next door, said the effect on property values is a main concern, but it’s not the only thing he’s worried about. The house, he said, could be detrimental to the neighborhood’s safety.
“You will do stupid things to get drugs, to get money,” Scheel said.”

While I can appreciate the local Bull Valley resident’s concerns about having people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction in their neighborhood, I can’t help but wonder if those concerns are remotely valid.  There certainly have been people who have done dumb things for drug money.  My experience is that the overwhelming majority of people stealing for drug money are stealing from people they already know, though.  Plus, what’s with the assumption that there aren’t a bunch of people living in Bull Valley who aren’t already suffering from addiction of alcohol or drugs.  Are they out thieving?

So, to that end, I’d agree with the people proposing the rehab center:

“Kyle Oremus, president of La Voie Inc., said that perception was part of an unfortunate stigma that surrounds addiction.
“The fact of the matter is this disease affects everyone from all walks of life, no matter what your socioeconomic status is,” she said.”

That’s not to say I don’t understand the concern.  Would I want a drug rehab center to open right next to my house? It wouldn’t be tops on my list of desired neighbors.  On the other hand, I just attacked google to see where the nearest rehab center is to my house.  Turns out there’s one offering fairly intensive treatment right in town, less than a mile away.  It’s not even in the middle of “25 acres currently zoned as agricultural.”

I’m not sure how long it’s been there- which is a pretty good sign that, whenever it showed up, it didn’t change things much.