November 29, 2023

MPS Zoning Team Helps Clear Way for Mental Health Crisis Center Program Expansion

The Josselyn Center NFP in Northfield is a well-known and well-respected resource for individuals who are experiencing mental health challenges on Chicago’s North Shore. Mental health care for everyone is one of the Center’s core objectives. The Center is a not-for-profit corporation that offers counseling and community-based mental health care, as well as what the Center’s website describes as “awareness, outreach, and community programming”, in four separate buildings located in the village’s downtown Office and Research District.

One of the Center’s more successful programs is “The Living Room.” It is part of a statewide safety net that provides services in real time for people experiencing mental health crises. The Living Room program provides those in crisis with services and support in a living room-type setting, with the goal of the program being the minimization, and hopefully the avoidance of, visits to hospital emergency rooms. The Living Room program is staffed with specially trained peer support specialists that are available in person or on the phone every day of the year.

Not long ago, The Josselyn Center was awarded a grant from the State of Illinois to expand its Living Room program. To receive the grant, however, The Josselyn Center had to provide a letter from the Village of Northfield confirming the Center’s compliance with its zoning ordinance.

Unfortunately, when the Center approached Northfield, Village representatives told the Center’s president that they didn’t believe The Living Room program fell squarely within the four corners of any land use definition in the village’s zoning ordinance. It was at that point in time that the Center turned to MPS Law for legal counsel and assistance.

After communicating over an extended period of time with the Village’s Director of Community Development and Village Attorney, it was agreed that the best way to approach the need for a “zoning conformance” letter would be to pursue amendments to the text of the Village’s zoning ordinance which would add a definition to the ordinance that describes The Living Room program use, makes it a special use in the Office and Research District, and grants a special use to The Josselyn Center to operate The Living Room program. Simultaneously, the parties agreed to address the fact that the Center operates out of four separate buildings in the village by pursuing additional zoning ordinance text amendments which would establish a new special use in the Office and Research District—namely, a “community mental health campus”—and by considering the grant of a special use permit to the Center to operate in the village as a community mental health campus.

Once this creative approach to addressing the Center’s needs and the Village’s objectives was established, the zoning approvals the Center needed sailed through the customary administrative and legislative processes without objection.

MPS zoning attorneys Hal Francke and Brendan Penny successfully represented The Josselyn Center on this matter. According to The Living Room program’s Peer Manager Nichole Gallup, “thanks to their efforts and the grant funding, The Living Room program expansion will be proceeding”.

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