Our View: Senator Heather Steans’ Proposal to Cut Drug Treatment Budget 50%, Eliminating Care for 35,000, Is Misguided

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago)

WHILE we recognize the State of Illinois continues to confront daunting budget deficits and the Illinois Senate Democratic caucus’ willingness to cuts its caucus budget 5% from last year is welcome, the proposal offered this week by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) to cut state drug treatment funding by 50% and drug prevention by 100% is entirely misguided.

The Illinois General Assembly has bludgeoned and slashed the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse budget for last several years, reducing the number of men, women, and children in treatment from 84,167 in fiscal year 2007 to only 70,378 in 2009.

The 50% reduction proposed by Steans, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee for human services, means the number of people in addiction treatment services would drop precipitously to 35,189, causing the unemployment of 750 treatment staff under this scenario.

The 100% elimination of addiction prevention would deny service to 229,536 youth statewide and push 350 prevention staff out of jobs.

Meanwhile, Steans is proposing increased spending in other parts of the Illinois human services budget.

“State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said that chamber most likely will be increasing funds for community care programs and keeping child care funding level,” according to a report in the Illinois Statehouse News on May 4.

Of course, we believe community care and child-care program are also important human service programs. However, Steans’ plan to increase spending for some programs while slashing funding by 50% for critical addiction health care services that save the state $7 for every $1 spent on treatment is imprudent and ill-advised.

Fortunately, State Senators William Delgado (D-Chicago) and State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) recognize the value of substance abuse prevention and treatment services and oppose the proposed cuts.

Upon further review, we hope Senator Steans and other senators will too recognize the vital role addiction health care service plays in the Illinois health care system and propose a budget that equalizes necessary sacrifices.

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