Beginning in 1952, the Elgin Association for Mental Health’s President, Maureen Withers, directed the work of volunteers from St. Joseph and Sherman Hospitals to establish the Fox Valley Mental Health Center. The center opened in 1955 to provide affordable psychiatric and related services such as therapy, case management and psychological testing. In the first year of operations, the center served 59 adults and children.
Dean 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 deinstituationalization movement in the 1970’s, 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 with a 14-person capacity was added in 2000 and another 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 individuals 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. In 2012, Ecker Center's Grandstand location added on-site primary healthcare provided by VNA Healthcare and an independent pharmacy provided by Genoa Healthcare. 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.
Today, Ecker Center for Behavioral Health provides sliding scale fee services to residents of ten townships in the northern two-thirds of Kane County and two townships in Cook County (Barrington and Hanover Townships).