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History of the Ecker Center for Mental Health

Beginning in 1952, the Elgin Association for Mental Health’s President, Maureen Withers, directed the work of volunteers form St. Joseph and Sherman Hospitals to establish the Fox Valley Mental Health Center. The Center opened in 1955 to provide psychiatric and related services such as therapy, case management and psychological testing that were affordable for all who required them. In its first year of operations the Center served 59 adults and children.

Dene Ecker was the organization’s first executive director and the Fox Valley Mental Health Center was renamed the Ecker Center for Mental Health in 1983, a year after he retired. During the deinstitutionalization movement in the 1970s the Center began working closely with adults who were released from the Elgin Mental Health Center (state psychiatric hospital).

Beginning in the 1980’s children and adolescent mental health services increasingly became the responsibility of the Family Service Association of Greater Elgin. In 1983 the Psychiatric Emergency Program was opened at Sherman Hospital and in 1986 satellite offices were opened in Hanover Park and St. Charles.  An 8 bed Crisis Residential Program was opened in 1985.  A CILA supervised residential program for 8 people was opened in 1990 and a supported residential program with a 14 person capacity was added in 2000 and another was added in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­2002.

When bed capacity at the Elgin Mental Health Center was significantly reduced in 2003, the Ecker Center assumed more responsibility for adults with very severe and chronic mental illnesses. The Center opened another 8 bed supervised residential program and additional Psychiatric Emergency Program therapists were hired.  The Center applied for and received two HUD supported housing program grants in 2003 and 2005.  The HUD programs serve a total of 20 persons with mental illness who were homeless when they entered the programs.  In 2004 the organization began providing an outreach case manager to the PADS of Elgin homeless shelter site.  At its Grandstand location in 2012 the Ecker Center added on-site primary healthcare provided by VNA Healthcare and an independent pharmacy, Genoa Pharmacy, for Ecker clients exclusively. In 2013 Ecker Center assumed responsibility for the former Larkin Center's adult residential and counseling programs. As a result, the Ecker Center began providing counseling and psychiatry for children and adolescents once again.

Currently the Ecker Center provides sliding fee scale services to residents of ten townships in the northern two thirds of Kane County and two townships (Barrington and Hanover) in Cook County.