CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago mental health services provider that was under investigation by the state after multiple CBS 2 reports is financially back on track, according to its interim CEO.
The leader of Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, also known as C4, kept his promise to the Morning Insiders, agreeing to a sit-down interview and check-in a few months into the job.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory explains why social work is especially needed during the pandemic, and how the new boss is making sure the organization is able to stick around for the long haul.
Inside the drop-in center at Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, some shuffling.
“We are a new leadership group,” interim CEO Pat Nichols said.
Nichols has been moving around the non-profit’s pieces all summer; from swapping out members of the executive team to selling C4’s Humboldt Park location then leasing it back.
“We were able to liberate a little bit of cash that gave us the room to grow and to address some of our prior challenges,” he said.
Challenges like suddenly dropped benefits.
“When I tried to fill prescriptions, I’ve been told by the pharmacist that I do not have health insurance,” a therapist who asked to remain anonymous told CBS 2 in December.
Employee after employee brought complaints to CBS 2’s attention; from late paychecks to deductions taken out without proper itemization.
“Whenever questions were asked, they fell on deaf ears,” C4 supervisor Jessica Larsen said in January.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office even opened up an investigation after our reports.
“We’re now staying about 3 to 4 payrolls ahead,” Nichols said.
Nichols said he’s revamped the billing department to get C4 paid faster by the state and put money in employees’ pockets quicker.
One strategy: encouraging C4 clinicians to submit notes for billing more efficiently.
“They’ve got our error rate down. They’ve got our collection time down,” Nichols said.
A cycle that’s helped another problem.
In the last year, C4 has had a lot of staff leave. How is Nichols combatting the problem?
“That’s a great question. We’ve hired 33 people since June,” he said.
The game plan is to keep adding to the team, because mental health services are needed now more than ever. Nichols said the deck is stacked against African Americans in Chicago.
“The suicide rate is up 70% from one year ago,” he said.
A combination of the pandemic, unemployment, racial unrest, and gun violence that Nichols hopes a more financially healthy C4 can tackle even after he’s gone.
A search for a permanent CEO hasn’t started yet, so Nichols doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be leading C4.
Nichols’ contract says he’ll stay on at least 30 days after a new boss is picked.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office said it stays in regular contact with C4, and considers the non-profit to be in “good compliance.”
Meantime, Nichols is working on various plans to generate more money to make more hires, including putting C4’s Broadway location up for sale. The executive team is still working on a transition plan for the drop-in center featured in our piece.