© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

PATH will lay off dozens after losing the statewide 988 call center contract

Exterior of 201 East Grove Street, the building that houses PATH, Inc. Signage for PATH is shown in the bottom right.
Melissa Ellin
PATH, Inc. has been in Bloomington for 53 years. It currently operates a homeless services division and two statewide crisis hotlines.

For the past two years, the Bloomington-based nonprofit PATH Inc. has managed 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline calls for all of Illinois, acting as the primary contact locally, and the backup for crisis call centers statewide when their lines were busy.

This amounted to over 1,000 calls daily from people in mental health crises, and oftentimes, people in the process of dying by suicide.

But the organization also has had public struggles since the death of former CEO Chris Workman last April. There’s been frequent turnover across positions, including top leadership, and the nonprofit blundered multiple grant opportunities in recent months.

Now, it's lost out on a $9.5 million 988 call center contract, meaning dozens of employees who work there will be laid off after the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, according to an email obtained by WGLT from interim CEO and Executive Director Adam Carter.

Centerstone, a nonprofit with locations in several states and southern Illinois, will take over the 988 call center for fiscal year 2025, starting July 1, WGLT has confirmed. Centerstone’s spokesperson directed WGLT to the state with questions.

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), which manages the grant, told WGLT via email that Centerstone was selected because it was the highest scoring applicant in a competitive process.

"Centerstone is a call center in other states, with extensive experience in the 988 system, and also serves as a national backup call center," IDHS wrote. "They are also an established community mental health center in Illinois, providing mobile crisis response services and other behavioral health supports in southern Illinois."

The Department said that it doesn't expect the transition between nonprofits to disrupt 988 services for callers, adding that "we appreciate PATH’s ongoing partnership and look forward to working together" to make it happen.

Carter, who was previously the assistant director of the 988 call center, notified PATH employees just before noon Friday that all staff “whose salaries rely solely on 988 funds, including crisis counselors, managers, shift leads, QA clinicians, and trainers, will conclude their employment” on June 30.

In previous conversations with WGLT, he said there were as many as 75 crisis counselors on staff.

“I empathize with how unexpected and uncertain this news may feel; it certainly does for me too,” he wrote in the Friday email, adding “it is essential to emphasize that the state's decision does not lessen the significant impact you have had on the lives of those we serve.”

Between now and July 1, Carter said PATH will disseminate relevant job listings to staff and try to connect with area service providers to see if they’ll accept applications from PATH staff. Further support will include cover letter and resume workshops, and PATH will provide references or support letters.

He directed WGLT to PATH's board of directors for comment on the issue, and responses from the group are pending.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. WGLT’s mental health coverage is made possible in part by Report For America and Chestnut Health Systems. Please take a moment to donate now and add your financial support to fully fund this growing coverage area so we can continue to serve the community.

Updated: April 23, 2024 at 6:41 PM CDT
On Tuesday, PATH's board president told WGLT that they are "shocked and deeply saddened that PATH was not selected for the statewide 988 grant." See more in this updated story.
Melissa Ellin is a reporter at WGLT and a Report for America corps member, focused on mental health coverage.