Shelters in Elgin and Aurora for abused women and children are taking a more holistic approach to helping people in need.
At a recent meeting with reporters to highlight National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said the number of domestic violence cases prosecuted by his office has remained "fairly consistent," but they are becoming more severe for a variety of reasons.
"The issues are more complex," said McMahon.
One area domestic violence shelters aim to address is substance use disorder, which is when someone's use of alcohol or other drugs exacerbates a situation and leads to mental, physical and behavioral problems.
"Substance use disorder is not a choice, it's an illness. It doesn't define a person," said Michelle Meyer, executive director of Mutual Ground. "We really want to provide a holistic approach."
Maureen Manning, director of client services at the Community Crisis Center in Elgin, said people suffering from substance use disorder use drugs to cope with or mask traumas.
Domestic violence cannot be addressed in the long-term without addressing addiction issues, said Manning, who also is the center's interim director. A domestic abuser wouldn't go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to learn anger management and an alcoholic wouldn't go to an abuser's meeting to learn how to be sober, she noted.
"The big message is, if people have two types of problems, they need both types of treatment," Manning said. "It's the domestic violence that got somebody's attention. That peels back other issues."
Meyer said Mutual Ground officials began talking in February about a possible merger with Breaking Free after the latter agency's executive director planned to retire. The merger will be complete in June 2020.
"Over the years, we've been referring (people) back and forth," said Meyer, who now serves as Breaking Free's executive director. "We were excited to look into the possibility of merging. We'll all be under the same umbrella."