Jim Otepka, family counselor

Batavia man leaves Kairos, Elgin’s hidden gem
By Tara Garcia Mathewson

Jim Otepka

Jim Otepka retired after 31 years working part-time at Kairos Family Counseling Center in Elgin. The center has no waiting list and offers services on a sliding scale based on what patients can afford. Photo by Laura Stoecker.

When the First Presbyterian Church in Elgin offered its basement rent-free to family counselors interested in starting a practice, they did so with a couple conditions. First, there could be no waiting list for services and second, the therapists would have to serve anyone regardless of ability to pay.

Jim Otepka, of Batavia, has worked part-time for Kairos Family Counseling Center for almost 31 years — he said the original offer from the church in 1975 is part folklore but fundamentally true.

“The founding fathers were idealistic enough to say sure,” Otepka said. “Those have been basic tenets to the organization, and it really has worked incredibly well through the years.”

Unlike practically every other community counseling center that exists, Kairos clients do not wait weeks or months for service. A committed group of mental health professionals has decided to honor the idea that starting a waiting list is not an option.

Kairos serves people who do not qualify for Medicaid and charges based on a sliding scale that fits with an individual’s ability to pay, whether that is with insurance or not.

Otepka, who also works full-time as the executive director of TriCity Family Services in Geneva, decided recently to try focusing on just one job, effectively retiring from Kairos.

Read the full story here.

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