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Illinois Budget Cuts overwhelming

 StreetWise (USA) 11 June 2019

(Originally published: 07/2009) Facing a “50 percent budget” for homelessness prevention, substance abuse, and mental health treatment, as well as care for the elderly, the disabled, and children, a record crowd rallied at the James R. Thompson Center, Chicago on June 18. Spilling onto downtown streets, human-services advocates and clients hope to force the Illinois General Assembly to pass a tax increase that would close the $9.2 billion budget gap and restore full services before the budget takes effect. (880 words) - By Suzanne Hanney

CHICAGO, USA - Facing a "50 percent budget" for homelessness prevention, substance abuse, and mental health treatment, as well as care for the elderly, the disabled, and children, a record crowd rallied at the James R. Thompson Center, Chicago on June 18.

Spilling onto downtown streets, human-services advocates and clients hope to force the Illinois General Assembly to pass a tax increase that would close the $9.2 billion budget gap and restore full services before the budget takes effect.

The Illinois Senate approved Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed tax increase in April, but on May 31 the Illinois House voted it down 74-42-2. "An income tax increase from 3% to 4.3% is about $14 per week for the average family," according to one placard held by a demonstrator at the Thompson Center rally. "Aren't we worth it?"

Toi Mack brought 22 women with her to the rally from the Haymarket Center, where she started out as a client seven years ago.

Mack said she's a former prostitute and drug addict who grew up homeless around Lake and Homan avenues, sleeping in her car and abandoned buildings.

Haymarket Center made a difference in her life, Mack said, because it took care of all her needs at once: a place to stay, substance abuse treatment, and classes in anger management, domestic abuse, and self-esteem. She then went back to school and got her GED as well as certification to be a substance abuse counselor.

"[Haymarket] taught me who I was," she said. "It taught me about the disease of addiction. I knew I wanted to do better, but I had been on dope 25 years-I didn't know who I was. I went to school there, left for six months, and [then] they hired me. They gave me a chance, let me believe in myself."

But others might not be so lucky, Mack said, because the state budget cuts will affect programs for detox and recovery homes, for mental health and child care.

Haymarket Center received a 74 percent cut to its department of alcohol and substance abuse budget, so its programs will be impacted "across the board," said Dan Lustig, PsyD, vice president of clinical services. "It's overwhelming."

Haymarket now serves 18,000 clients a year, but the July 1 budget means the center is only working with the clients it has and not taking new ones, Dr. Lustig added. Because some recovery homes will shut down July 1, there is no      ability to place people elsewhere.

"Addiction is a medical disease," he said. "What the state is doing now is no different than throwing a cancer patient in the street. Not only does treatment work, but they become working people again, they contribute to the economy. These are tax-paying citizens when they get treatment and find a job."

William McNary, co-executive director of CitizenAction/Illinois, the state's largest public-interest advocacy organization, told Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times that he's never seen budget cuts like this in the 22 years he's been in Springfield.

Rally organizer Maria Whelan, president of Illinois Action for Children, a community resource-and-referral agency for child care, told StreetWise after the rally that the state budget is not a "doomsday budget, it's a go-out-of-business budget. The most vulnerable people in this state will be devastated.

"It's shameful to be jerking low-income families around like this," she continued. "They work hard, their lives are fragile. They need help so they can do better and advance."

Day-care providers Silvia Hernandez and Rosa Cavada said they would both lose their jobs, which run five days a week, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Hernandez cares for 10 children, and Cavada watches a half dozen. They cited the ripple effect on the parents of their charges: a laborer parent, Cavada said, couldn't pay higher rates than the subsidized care.

According to Gov. Quinn's Web site, the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) would lose $1 billion in funding for community-provided services and another $232 billion for state-funded services. About 5,400 full-time state employees would be laid off; four of nine state-run developmental centers and six of nine state-run psychiatric hospitals would close.

DHS cuts would include:

•$271 million-ending child-care assistance for 142,085 children;

•$251 million-a 40 percent rate cut to providers of services for developmentally disabled children and adults;

•$103 million-ending programs for developmentally disabled people, including those for autism, respite/family assistance, home-based support, and children's residential or group-home support;

•$108 million-reduced funding for community mental-health programs;

•78 million-a 75 percent rate cut for health programs, including Teen REACH;

•$56 million-ending addiction treatment for 20,800 adolescents and adults.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) would cut $388 million in service by community providers:

•$163 million-a 50 percent payment cut to 37,000 adoptive or foster-care families;

•$46 million-reduced services for youth with developmental disabilities, mental illness, or emotional disturbances;

•$41 million-tripling foster-care caseloads for social workers, from 15 to 50 children.

Another $72 million in DCFS cuts would come from closing 15 of 70 DCFS field offices and doubling up investigative caseloads.

The Department on Aging would also lose $388 million. The majority of the cuts would come from ending programs for 20,000 low-income seniors not eligible for Medicaid and reducing benefits for 35,000 who are eligible.

 

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