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Group seeks programs to keep the mentally ill out of jail

BATAVIA – Scott Ambrose said he was homeless for 51/2 years, sleeping under bridges, in parks and parking lots and missions.

Ambrose of Elgin said he went through Kane County’s Treatment Alternative Court for those with mental illness to get help instead of going to jail.

Now with treatment and support from Ecker Center for Mental Health, regular AA meetings and self help groups, Ambrose said he has an apartment “that is safe and clean.”

“I used to be sick and lonely and now I have friends,” Ambrose said.

Ambrose and others spoke to about 200 people at a community meeting Tuesday at the Congregational Church of Batavia to promote more programs for diversion and treatment instead of jail for people with mental illness.

Hosted by the Fox River Valley Initiative, and supported by a broad spectrum of community leaders, churches and organizations, speakers called for Kane County to fulfill its mission statement.

Rev. Yvette Ebur, pastor of the Congregational Church, read the county’s mission statement, “to enhance and protect the health, welfare and safety of those who live and work in Kane County.”

“We are here to take that step forward. To make that real,” Ebur said. “We are here to overcome the feeling that nothing ever changes.”

Ebur urged the assembly to take steps to make others aware of the plight of people with mental illness, when they go to jail instead of get treatment with programs to be supported by federal grants and a riverboat grant next year.

Bill Scown of the Unitarian Universalist Society in Geneva and Jacki Bakker of Christ the Lord Lutheran Church in Elgin spoke about the high cost of having mentally ill people in jail instead of receiving treatment.

Scown said the county spent more than $4.3 million incarcerating 1,900 mentally ill people in 2014.

Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon and county board members Phil Lewis, R-St. Charles and Joseph Haimann, D-Carpentersville, also attended.

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