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Illinois’ budget impasse: big pullbacks for mental health services

Posted on 04-06-16 in Advocacy, Behavioral Health, Rehabilitation

Illinois’ budget impasse: big pullbacks for mental health services

Illinois is in a desperate situation. The budget altercation between the Democrat-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is nowhere near settlement, as the government continues to lose time and money.

The state has spent the last seven months without a budget, and the immediate impact is being felt by the most vulnerable populations.

Illinois’ biggest social service drawback

The state’s largest private provider of human-service programs, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), has announced the closing of 30 programs that cater to the needs of 4,700 people, owing to the budget impasse. The agency will let go of 750 employees, which is roughly 43 percent of its staff, as confirmed by its President/CEO Mark Stutrud.

LSSI survived on bank loans and its reserves for the last seven months. Unfortunately, that is no longer an option. The cutbacks impact 912 clients as well as 53 staff of their substance abuse treatment programs.

Said LSSI spokesperson Barb Hailey, “We continue to have a number of programs for those individuals, but it’s important for those dealing with substance abuse to be in a situation where they’re not tempted by what brought them in to begin with. And for those individuals, it will be a challenge.”

The 149-year-old Lutheran Social Services is exposed to overdue bills worth $6 million in total. The programs being cut include seniors’ in-home care, substance-abuse assistance, mental health counseling and homeless shelter services. These programs were most dependent on state funding.

“These programs are at the very base of getting at problems like depression early on, so they’re very important,” Hailey continued. “We’re still providing outpatient services and will do what we can for referral.”

Substance abuse programs face major cuts

Rauner’s budget proposal cuts substance abuse treatment funding by 20 percent. The governor’s administration is convinced that this cut is necessary owing to calamitous financial pressures. The critics, however, argue that such measures could cost Illinois more money in the long term.

Even though state funding for addiction treatment is estimated at nearly $124 million in fiscal year 2015, Rauner’s budget plan for fiscal year 2016 will slash that to about $99 million.

The people most affected will be the low-income population, especially in face of the current heroin epidemic. According to the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, almost 7,800 fewer people will be able to access substance abuse care statewide.Numbers surrounding Gov. Rauner’s proposed budget

Joel Johnson, president of the Human Resources Development Institute, which provides mental health and drug addiction treatment, said despite being aware of the budget constraints, cutting treatment for addicts isn’t the best route.

“You can’t do more with less, he remarked. “You do less with less.”

Concern over Illinois state cuts for mental health

Based upon a recent National Alliance on Mental Health report, state budget cuts have rendered “staggering” reductions in mental health services.

Illinois’ cuts of $113.7 million left it behind only California ($587 million) and New York ($132 million) as the third-highest in the nation.

The report concludes that such extreme cuts can have a high human cost, saying, “For youth and adults living with serious mental illness, these consequences include frequent visits to emergency rooms, hospitalizations, homelessness, entanglement with juvenile and criminal justice systems, the loss of critical developmental years, premature deaths and suicides.”

Sovereign Health is a leading behavioral health treatment provider, devoted to the provision of evidence-based treatment for substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses. If you or a loved one is currently struggling to regain control of your life, help is just a phone call away.

About the author

Sana Ahmed is a staff writer for Sovereign Health Group. A journalist and social media savvy content developer with extensive research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana has previously worked as an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster. She writes to share the amazing developments from the mental health world and unsuccessfully attempts to diagnose her friends and family. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at