UPTOWN — Chicago Lakeshore Hospital is opening a new psychiatric facility for children as part of a $20 million expansion effort.
The new center is part of a broader expansion that "will revitalize several properties within the Uptown neighborhood and create as many as 200 jobs," according to a statement sent out before a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site, located at 4720 N. Clarendon Ave., Monday morning.
"We consider ourselves as part of the economic engine of the Uptown neighborhood," Lakeshore CEO Alan Eaks said in an interview.
The new in-patient facility will serve people from age 3 to 17 at a time of increasing demand for professional mental health treatment, officials said. The building was originally built for Alzheimer's patients more than 10 years ago, but never opened and has sat vacant because the company operating it ran out of funds.
Lakeshore spent about $9.5 million rehabilitating the building to serve its latest purpose, hospital officials said.
"It's going to be a building dedicated to children and families," Eaks said. "We feel like our consumers appreciate going to a building that is family centric."
The expansion allows the hospital to move its existing 45 beds devoted to children from its current outpatient facility at 850 W. Lawrence Ave. to the new building, and bring the total number of beds at the space to 60, Eaks said.
The University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a review of the hospital in 2011 on behalf of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. It found that inadequate staffing levels and lax supervision contributed to four incidents between 2008 and 2010 where children where either sexually abused or engaged in sexual misconduct.
DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin said there are no lingering concerns related to the 2011 report.
“The concerns raised in the 2011 report were discussed by the department and the hospital. They were resolved, and we haven’t had any substantial problems since,” Clarkin said.
Hospital officials also said the report looked at a small sample of incidents to make broad conclusions that they consider inaccurate.
"We responded to that report, and we had some very large concerns about how that report was drafted and how the information was presented, which was not accurate," Eaks said. "Are we looking to increase patient safety? Always. That is a part of what we do every day."
The new hospital will allow Lakeshore to "divide up our population of kids on every floor," Eaks said, explaining that adolescent boys, adolescent girls and small children would all be separated.
About 150 people, including 45 new hires, will eventually staff the center, which will accept Medicaid for children, he said.
Eaks added that the building is "substantially complete," and that Lakeshore is awaiting occupancy permits from the Illinois Department of Health, which is conducting an on-site survey in the next three to four weeks.
Hospital spokesman Andrew Mack said phase three is still in the "planning stages," but that it involves demolishing the hospital's current outpatient facility on West Lawrence Avenue and rebuilding a bigger facility at a cost of between $5 and $6 million in 2013.
The ribbon-cutting on Monday was attended by Eaks, Illinois Rep. Heather Steans, U.S. Rep. Greg Harris and Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who in December labeled Uptown 'Ground Zero' of Chicago's mental health crisis.
Steans said that "the growing need for mental health services is so clear throughout the state," and that emergency room beds "are being overwhelmed with people with mental health challenges."
Harris said the mental health crisis shows itself "on the streets when mental health needs are not treated."
"The need for a facility like this is only going to grow in coming years," he said.