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Marcfirst to expand behavioral health services as part of move to new building

Marcfirst offers services to people with disabilities and since 2018 has expanded its offerings to pediatric therapy for children ages one to three.
Marcfirst offers services to people with disabilities and since 2018 has expanded its offerings to pediatric therapy for children ages one to three.

$500,000 in pandemic relief money from the Town of Normal will help a not-for-profit agency that offers service to those with disabilities get a new facility and expand programs.

Marcfirst started an in-house behavioral health program a few years ago. CEO Brian Wipperman said it adds to the occupational, physical, and other kinds of therapy they already offer. The move allows Marcfirst to expand the behavioral health clinic, community day services, supported employment and high school transition programs.

Wipperman said Marcfirst will sell its existing building on Hunt Drive.

"Many of the adults we already support also have a mental health diagnosis, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and things like that," said Wipperman.

The problem was state wait lists were years long for behavioral health therapy. Wipperman said having an in-house program let Marcfirst run billing through Medicaid which is a lot faster.

"What very quickly happened by doing that was, we ran out of space," said Wipperman.

The new facility will be on Jacobssen Drive in northeast Normal in the former Compeer Financial building and will be 16,000 square feet larger than Marcfirst has now at its 20,000-square-foot building on Hunt Drive in Normal. Wipperman said the new location also provides opportunity to partner with the Regional Office of Education.

"By creating and expanding our behavioral health clinic, it's going to allow us to provide supports to the Bridge Academy, which will be in house," said Wipperman.

The Regional Office of Education will have classroom space for kids who need intensive mental health support in the new Marcfirst building which adjoins Shepard Park. Wipperman said that green space is good for Marcfirst and Bridge Academy clients.

Marcfirst is also ironing out a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal to create satellite offices for each agency.

"We might be able to basically provide each other space — rent-free space — and let us support the community as a greater whole so we remove the barrier of transportation in getting to these places," said Wipperman.

Wipperman said that partnership may be finalized in the next several months, though the timetable is not firm.

“I am honored to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners at Marcfirst, to continue to open doors of opportunity where every person in our community has access to a place that believes in them and empowers them to reach their full potential. Real, lasting change takes collaboration, big ideas, and bold action, and together we can continue to strengthen the health and well-being of our community,” said Tony Morstatter, Boys & Girls Club CEO.

The Bridge Academy will take about 6,000 square feet in the new building.

Marcfirst also continues its second expansion of its pediatric therapy services in The Gregg Chadwick Pediatric Therapy Center on the grounds of Carle BroMenn Medical Center. Marcfirst operates around a $10 million annual budget providing over 1,200 services to children and adults.

Marcfirst has brought in basketball legend Doug Collins for its annual fundraising dinner Sunday night at the Doubletree in Bloomington.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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