WEST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — UnityPoint Health’s plans to open a child and teen behavioral center are one step closer to reality.

Wednesday, CEFCU donated $500,000 towards the project.

“We are literally going to transform and change the trajectory of thousands of kids’ lives who are battling with mental illness,” said Mike Unes, vice president of UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois Foundation.

UnityPoint Health is remodeling the former site of Heddington Oaks in West Peoria, transforming the building from a nursing home to a behavioral health center with 44 beds for children and teens.

“It provides us that opportunity to really specialize our treatment. We can separate by age, by gender, by diagnostic category,” said Mary Sparks Thompson, president of UnityPoint Health-UnityPlace.

The plan known as the Young Minds Project was first announced in March. Since then, Sparks Thompson said the need for mental health services and the severity of illness has only increased.

“We’re seeing a lot of suicidality in our children, which of course is very concerning. we see a lot of substance abuse,” Sparks Thompson said.

The $25-30 million dollar Young Minds Institute Child and Adolescent Behavioral Center is in its final design stages.

Around half of the costs will be covered by UnityPoint, with the healthcare system seeking donations for the rest. Wednesday, CEFCU pitched in half a million dollars.

“When we receive requests for support, we look for things just like this that have a huge, very positive impact for the communities that we serve,” said Matt Mamer, CEFCU president.

Unes said statistics show the importance of bringing this type of facility to Central Illinois.

“17% of all area tenth graders, just in our area, have admitted to seriously considering taking their life by suicide, that’s staggering to us,” Unes said.

The project will also have a recreation center which Sparks Thompson said reduces stress and anxiety, among other benefits.

The behavioral health center is scheduled to open around this time next year or later next fall.