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Published: Friday, 1/16/2009

Nonprofit for teens will close its doors

The Connecting Point operates from four sites in Toledo, including this location on Cherry Street.  The nonprofit agency, which had its start in Toledo in 1974, employs 147. The Connecting Point operates from four sites in Toledo, including this location on Cherry Street. The nonprofit agency, which had its start in Toledo in 1974, employs 147.

A Toledo nonprofit agency, which each year helps more than a thousand area adolescents with mental illness and substance abuse issues, will soon permanently close its doors, Lucas County officials announced yesterday.

Connecting Point, an agency that treated 2,100 children in 2008 and currently has a 1,200-youth caseload, will close, said Interim Director Delores Williams.

We are reassuring clients that services will continue in the short term, Ms. Williams said in a statement. Our agency will work with each client to coordinate the transition of their services to a new provider.

Angie Hennessy of Oregon was thoroughly disappointed yesterday when she arrived at the agency s office on Cherry Street with her 12-year-old son and was told of the planned closing.

He has ADHD and now that they won t have this anymore, I don t know where he ll be sent, Ms. Hennessy said. It s very upsetting. His grades have gone from failing a year ago to all A s now, so this has really helped.

Ms. Hennessy said parents were told yesterday the agency would close in about 30 days.

Connecting Point employs 147 people and is funded by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County.

The youth agency got its start in 1974 with a shelter for runaways and a 24-hour emergency hot line service.

It has offered mental health therapy for children and their families, substance abuse treatment, and other services for youths.

In October, the agency announced its 24-hour assistance center for children would be temporarily closed. It has not reopened.

Jacqueline Martin, director of the mental health and recovery services board, said the children would be placed with other agencies.

Mental health services have received only continuation funding from the state for a number of years and [Connecting Point] had some grants that were not renewed, Ms. Martin said.

Also, their billings have not kept pace with the revenue they ve needed to offset the cost of operations.

Connecting Point, with four locations in Toledo, has an $8.3 million annual budget, of which the county funnels $6.3 million of state local funding. Closing the 24-hour assistance center was an attempt to save the agency, Ms. Martin said.

Even though voters on Nov. 4 approved a replacement levy for the MHRS board, officials in November said its board which gives funding to Compass, Connecting Point, and 20 other agencies would have to cut about $300,000 from worthwhile but nonessential programs provided by some of them by April 1.

As much as we appreciate the levy, it is really just helping us keep our head above water, Ms. Martin said then.

Connecting Point leaders also were grateful the levy passed, but in November its board president, Diana Chatman, told The Blade the agency was looking for other sources of funding.

The youth behavioral health agency at that point also had to cancel one fund-raiser and was expected to halt another in June because it didn t have the money to put them on, Ms. Chatman said then.

Nancy Yunker, president of Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio, said other agencies would rally to make sure the children would get the help they need because of the loss of Connecting Point.

I am certainty hopeful and prayerful there will be a successful resolution, Ms. Yunker said. We and other organizations that have been providing services would be happy to step forward and provide services as we are very concerned about the vulnerable population in our community.

This is a difficult time for the economics of all behavioral health organizations and we know that state is advocating cuts so all of the organizations will be facing difficult times in the next two years, Ms. Yunker said.

Larry Hemme, chief clinical officer for Unison Behavioral Health Group, also said his agency would be among those filling the void left by Connecting Point.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:imessina@theblade.comor 419-724-6171.

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