Uncertainty over Gov. Pat Quinn’s Mid-Year Budget Cuts Freezes Drug Treatment for New Clients around Illinois

State Reps. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Greg Harris (D-Chicago) announced at a press conference last week that they are sponsoring House Resolution 106 that calls on Governor Pat Quinn to halt the elimination of funding for substance abuse treatment services.

(Springfield, IL) — Despite Governor Pat Quinn’s statement last week that mid-year budget cuts announced earlier by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) would be reduced to avoid a complete elimination of state funded substance abuse prevention and treatment services, the uncertainly of the actual amount to be cut in the next two weeks has prompted some treatment providers to refuse new clients.

“While we appreciate Governor Quinn’s good intentions,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “We are not out of the woods yet, because multiple providers around Illinois, who are fearful of the magnitude of still unspecified cuts, have frozen treatment services for new, non-Medicaid eligible clients.”

On Friday, February 18, DHS Secretary Michelle Saddler suddenly informed Howe that all state funding for non-Medicaid alcohol and drug treatment services would be eliminated by March 15 as part of an effort of the Quinn Administration to cut $208 million from the department’s budget, prompting providers to halt the intake of new clients.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) opposed the cuts, saying, “It’s not the right move.”

Quinn later reduced the amount to $100 million after advocates protested and more than two-dozen lawmakers, lead by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), introduced a House resolution calling on Quinn to cancel the cuts that would eliminate treatment services for 55,000 clients out of the 69,000 currently being served.

“Neither Governor Quinn nor Secretary Saddler have yet identified where the $100 million in cuts will fall,” said Howe. “As a result, the mid-year budget crisis remains unresolved and a freeze on accepting new clients is in place in various parts of the state, denying treatment for those desperately seeking it.”

Howe noted that the Haymarket Center in Chicago currently has a freeze on new, non-Medicaid eligible clients. The South Suburban Council in suburban East Hazel Crest is operating below capacity, accepting only a few new clients. Meanwhile, the Prairie Center in Urbana is also accepting only a trickle of new clients for residential treatment, leaving 12 of its 24 beds empty, until they learn the magnitude of the cuts to be announced within the next two weeks.

“The uncertainty is as harmful as the cuts themselves because of the disruption of services,” said Howe. “We need both predictable and adequate funding to keep treatment services flowing.”

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