Park Ridge looks for healthy advice
Paula Besler, director of community relations at Lutheran General Hospital, is spearheading a healthy community survey which will be mailed to approximately one-third of Park Ridge households in February. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 11:18AM
PARK RIDGE — As Park Ridge’s police chief, Frank Kaminski sees the problems of untreated mental illness up close.
Incidents of suicide, disputes and citizens exhibiting “bizarre behavior” are on the rise, but Kaminski hopes the findings of a new community-wide survey will reinforce what officers already know and lead to better solutions that the police department alone cannot provide.
“As a police department, we’ve been seeing more kinds of these calls for service, so (the survey) is of interest to me to figure out what’s going on, what the problem is and how we can respond to it,” Kaminski said.
Roughly 7,000 Park Ridge households can expect to find the nine-page Healthy Community Survey in their mailboxes this month, seeking input on a variety of topics including mental health; the needs of seniors and families; causes of stress; characteristics missing in Park Ridge; and support and treatment services that are needed, but not received.
The survey is made possible through the Healthier Park Ridge Project, which brought together representatives from Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, the city of Park Ridge, the Park Ridge Health Commission, the Human Needs Task Force and about 20 other local groups. This committee reviewed and approved the survey’s questions.
“Mental health has become such an epidemic,” noted Paula Besler, director of community relations at Lutheran General who led the Healthier Park Ridge Project. “We’ve had suicides in our community and just an increase in a lack of ability to get help. I think the economy and lack of funding from the state have all contributed to difficulties for people.”
Fran Hook Hume, a committee member and chief executive officer with Park Ridge-based Maine Center, which assists residents dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues, said the survey’s responses will serve as a “barometer” for what is missing in the community and what needs to be done.
“It’s to see what’s on the community’s mind,” Hume said. “We have little groups here and there and we have ideas from them, but we don’t have a community-wide survey. We hope the community participates so we know what the community is thinking, not what we think they’re thinking.”
Peter Ryan, a member of Park Ridge’s Health Commission, agreed.
“This gives a depth of insight you just can’t get without a survey,” Ryan said. (“Without a survey) it just becomes anecdotal and one person’s point of view.”
Unlike area suburbs like Niles, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Des Plaines and others, the city of Park Ridge does not have a department dedicated to human services. Residents must turn to non-governmental organizations or Maine Township for assistance.
The Healthier Park Ridge Project committee members will be involved in reviewing the results of the survey with the city of Park Ridge and Lutheran General Hospital. Besler, who launched the project, said the hospital is on board to provide financial support to initiatives that are created as a result of the survey. One possibility, she said, is the creation of a community health specialist position. What this individual would do will be determined by the survey’s findings, Besler said.
Surveys are expected to start arriving at homes next week and are funded primarily through Advocate Lutheran General Hospital with help from some outside donations, Besler said.
The Healthier Park Ridge Project is seeking additional donations in order to produce more surveys. Anyone interested in making a donation can contact Besler at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (847) 723-7188.
In addition to mailing out more surveys, those involved in the project are just hoping as many residents as possible respond.
“In these tough times we really want people’s voices to be heard and we want to hear as many as we can,” Besler said.