An Evanston alderman says Albany Care, the specialized mental health rehabilitation facility at 901 Maple Ave., may lose its state license this month.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) told residents at a ward meeting Thursday night that the Illinois Department of Public Health is supposed to make a decision about whether the facility can hang onto its license “by the middle of April.”

But, so far, Nieuwsma says, the IDPH hasn’t announced a decision.

Albany Care, the one-time Ridgeview Hotel, has a capacity of 417 residents but is said to currently operate with fewer than 300. It is one of 20 SMHRF facilities in the state.

Evanston is home to two of them. The other one here is Greenwood Care at 1406 Chicago Ave.

Albany Care has drawn increasing complaints from neighbors in recent months as well as complaints from residents about the quality of care.

“Albany Care is a nightmare,” Nieuwsma says. He says insufficient staffing and other issues has meant “things are going wrong in that building.”

He says he, Mayor Daniel Biss and Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski have been working to address the issue for several months and, with the assistance of State Rep. Robyn Gabel, have gotten the state health department to pay attention to the issue.

Nieuwsma says whichever decision the state makes about the license, the neighborhood can likely expect continuing problems.

If the license is lifted, it will take time to relocate all the residents, and “during that time period the operators will have no incentive to offer any additional support and will have every incentive to cut costs,” the alderman said

“So we’re looking at several months of things getting worse before it goes away.”

If they keep their license, he said, “They’re likely to continue to barely scrape by” and the neighborhood problems will continue. “That’s not much better,” he added.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. I threaten to drop my kids off at this place when they misbehave in the car. A simple threat of “I’ll drop all of you off at Grey Park if you keep this up” does the trick every time … it’s that scary.

    1. Call me a maverick, I live within a block of Albany Care, I get panhandled every time I go out, but the good thing about Albany Care is, they keep Grey Park from being developed into a monstrosity of a children’s playground, which has been proposed in the past. I like the open space and sculpted grounds of Gray Park, just the way it is. Albany Care residents only hang out at one corner of it. There aren’t many children in the neighborhood anyway.

      1. Moser translation:
        I know there is a facility wide physical, sexual and emotional abuse problem, coupled with rampant drug use, but at least they keep the kids away, and I can enjoy the empty park.

      2. Regarding your comment about children, there are actually PLENTY of children in the area, including two schools within blocks of Albany Care. Also, those of us who live east and southeast of the park absorb all of their cigarette smoke in our homes, as well has deal with all the screaming and loud music that comes out of that corner of the park. Sorry but your comment is selfish.

        For what it’s worth, I am a parent but would not mind it remaining an open space park with no play equipment because I agree it looks nice that way, as long as Albany Care is shut down permanently. That way people can at least take walks in the park, including kids who need to walk through the park safely to get to school.

        The alderman is doing a great job getting us here. I am so grateful for Mr. Nieuwsma. We are all hoping it gets shut down. Having “issues” for several months or more as a result of closure is a small price to pay for long term peace of mind and normalcy, as well as being able to safely use the park and other resources such as the Metra station which are currently unsafe because of Albany Care.

  2. It’s obvious to the public how poorly run Albany Care is, because you hardly notice Greenwood Care. It proves it’s possible to run a facility like this without a negative impact on the community. Albany Care is failing residents and the neighborhood, and hopefully the state will see that.

    1. The same parent company owns both Albany Care and Greenwood. The bigger issue here is the serious lack funding for housing and services people with mental health issues across the state Of Illinois. As a state , we are at the bottom of the heap as far as funding decent services for our most vulnerable citizens. Contact your state representatives and demand better care for persons struggling with mental illness!

  3. The mismanaged facility and residents have had a negative impact on the Main Street Corridor throughout the last year with thefts, assaults and vandalism to both residents and many Main Street businesses. This was NEVER part of this neighborhood. It’s time for change and for the state to recognize the negative impact Albany Care has had on our neighborhood, businesses and overall safety of the community.

  4. I don’t know much about the Greenwood facility, which is located in a mixed area of businesses and homes. It’s possible that it is for that reason that we don’t hear as much about problems there.
    I will say again, as I’ve said before many times, that housing hundreds of chronically mentally ill folks in one building, with poor services and support, is a very bad idea. A generation ago, there was a shift towards smaller, more home like settings that provided small numbers of apartments and on site case management services.
    These kinds of smaller buildings with increased supports and services onsite are a much better way of providing for the needs of both the surrounding communities and the residents themselves.
    I hope that the Albany Care facility will be closed permanently. Even though, in the short run, some problems might get worse, ending the pattern of housing large numbers of very needy folks with insufficient supports and services in one location has to stop, period.
    I would hope that there may be some Covid relief funds left somewhere to consider building increased numbers of smaller apartment buildings that include ongoing services and supports. There is available funding and existing structures that support private developers to receive tax breaks to work with public funders to build such buildings.
    I believe there is one such building on Dempster Street in Evanston that was built not long ago. I haven’t heard of any community complaints/problems there.

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