Lea Kirby-Hill believes the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic’s aftershocks such as substance abuse and mental health issues are yet to be realized.
“We have not seen the real impact but it’s coming,” she said. “The effects of the pandemic are just trickling in.”
Her Kirby Rehabilitation Inc., which on Wednesday marked the opening of its office in Matteson, its second south suburban location, is gearing up for that impact, adding staff in areas such as crisis intervention and bringing on mental health professionals.
A year ago, Kirby rolled out its mobile crisis response team, working with area police departments in domestic violence and mental health crisis situations.
Kirby-Hill, a Country Club Hills resident, opened a location last July in Dolton called The Comfort Zone, which provides 24/7 help to south suburban residents. The Matteson location, in office space near the Matteson Holiday Inn off the Interstate 57 and U.S. 30 interchange, will expand those efforts, she said.
Kirby Rehabilitation has developed a close collaboration with officials in Dolton, including the police and fire chiefs, but the crisis response service is available to police departments throughout the south suburbs, said Kirby-Hill, founder as well as president and CEO.
Along with responding to domestic violence incidents and assisting police, the crisis response team members are able to offer an alternative to a trip to the hospital or jail for people experiencing a mental health crisis, Kirby-Hill said.
“We’re supporting the police and decreasing the number of incarcerations,” she said. “We are there to de-escalate the situation.”
Kirby Rehabilitation recently began showing commercials on Chicago television stations to promote its services in substance abuse and mental health.
A young Black man talks to the camera saying “I just want to feel happy, I want to feel connected,” interspersed with images of him drinking alcohol and being helped home by friends after overindulging.
“I just need help,” he says, before information about connecting with Kirby Rehabilitation is shown.
Speaking at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, state Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin, D-Olympia Fields, said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has “shone a bright light on health disparities in our community, and mental health being one of them.”
“It is important for us to feel we finally have something that is very much needed and something we deserve in the Southland,” Meyers-Martin said.
More than two decades ago, Kirby-Hill started what was then called Today’s Single Parent, which was an outgrowth of her needing to find resources, as a single mom, for her two daughters.
The group used a community center in a Hyde Park grocery store, then later had office space in Chicago’s Roseland community.
Kirby Rehabilitation was organized in December 2016.
Kirby Rehabilitation is a for-profit business and gets revenue through fees for services, Medicaid reimbursement and grants, including grants totaling $1.3 million to fund the mobile response unit, Kirby-Hill said.