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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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GANNON CENTER (Gannon Center for Community Mental Health). A private, non-profit organization, the Gannon Center was incorporated in March 1966, with a staff of six part-time employees. By 1996 this had increased to over two hundred. From rented offices on the eighth floor of the Roshek Building, the Center expanded to two outpatient centers, two residential care facilities, a community support program/day treatment center, and several satellite nursing homes and care facilities throughout Dubuque and Jackson counties.

Ann MICHALSKI joined the staff in 1986 as an administrative assistant. She was promoted to human resources director in 1989 and also served as the center's grant writer, participant in community outreach, and legislative liaison. The center's outreach into Clinton County in 1998 caused her to postpone her retirement to serve as the interim director in Clinton. (1)

The 1974 Dubuque City Directory listed 201 Loras.

In 1991 the name of the Center was changed in honor of Timothy J. GANNON, (Msgr.). The same year, MERCY MEDICAL CENTER notified the Center that it would no longer be able to provide space for it as it had since 1969. The Center then relocated to the second floor of the Fischer Arcade where it opened its doors on June 15, 1992.

In 1995 David L. Tjarks, supervisor of the Gannon Center's Jackson County office, succeeded Howard Barton as executive director of the center. In one of his first statements, Tjarks announced funding was a major issue facing the agency. (2) From a small clientele, the caseload in 1996 exceeded 4,000 individuals. Financing the Center was approved by the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors who believed community care for the mentally ill would prove less expensive than institutionalization at a state hospital. Programs such as one designed for children who had experienced deep loss in their lives were offered.

According to Mary Lou Baal,executive officer of the Gannon Center problems began in 2002-2003 when funding from Dubuque and Jackson counties switched from block grants to fee-for-service. Under block grants, the Center and the covered counties decided what had been paid for throughout the prior year with the county covering the difference. Under fee-for-service, rates were predetermined with a formula based on allowable costs. This resulted in a large reduction of money coming to the Center. (3)

An operational audit by external experts affiliated with the National Council of Behavioral Mental Health Centers in December, 2003 and an internal staff morale survey in 2003, according to former director Steve Laubacher, identified serious fiscal, program, governance and morale problems. Laubacher went on to blame the board for neglecting to act as a policy maker rather than a manager. (4) Staff retention problems over several years was recognized in July, 2005 for the center's difficulties in delivering services. (5) In December, 2005 the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors requested an audit of the center's finances. (6)

Due to financial problems, the Gannon Center, which operated the JULIEN CARE FACILITY for twenty years, ceased most of its operations around 2016, but agreed to continue running the facility until a replacement could be found.

Closed for months, the Gannon Center filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2006. Much of the money owed was from former clients without means to pay. In March, 2006 HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES started providing outpatient programs in Dubuque and Jackson counties with its Hillcrest Community Mental Health Center. Outpatient and inpatient treatment in Clinton County were provided by Bridgeview Community Mental Health. MEDICAL ASSOCIATES CLINIC PC (THE) partnered with Hillcrest to offer inpatient care. Management of the Julien Care Facility began by DAC, Inc. in June. (7)



1. Hogstrom, Erik,"Michalski Seeks Justice for the Mentally Ill," Telegraph Herald, December 9, 1998, p. 1

2. Gwiasda, Susan B., "Gannon Center Gets New Director," Telegraph Herald, Sept. 15, 1995, p. 3

3. Baal, Mary Lou,"Funding Change Hurt Gannon Center," Telegraph Herald, January 12, 2006, p. 8

4. "Gannon Center Woes Precede Departed Director," Telegraph Herald, September 18, 2004, p. 4

5. Hogstrom, Erik, "Mental Health Activists Plan Ahead," Telegraph Herald, July 15, 2005, p. 3

6. Klein, Emily, "County Requests Gannon Center Audit," Telegraph Herald, December 20, 2005, p. 1

7. Hogstrom, Erik,"Gannon Center Files for Bankruptcy," Telegraph Herald, Dec. 7, 2006, p. 1