Rauner Budget Axes 7,871 from Drug Treatment

(Springfield, IL) – Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed FY 2016 budget cuts would eliminate substance treatment for 7,871 Illinois residents, dealing a blow to employment opportunities, say advocates.

Rauner is aiming to slice $27.6 million out of the $127 million budget of the Illinois Department of Human Service’s Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse for alcohol and drug treatment, a 22% cut.

A cut of that magnitude would eliminate addiction healthcare treatment for 7,871 individuals next year out of the 47,000 currently receiving care this year or a 17% overall decrease, according to Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association Vice President for Substance Abuse Policy Eric Foster, who noted that funding for addiction health care has been cut 24% since fiscal year 2009.

“Tossing 7,871 people out of treatment means tossing them out of any meaningful opportunity to get a job,” said Foster. “Any good, modern businessman, especially a small businessman, knows that healthy employees are productive employees. It’s economics 101.”

According to 2014 data from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, 35% of individuals entering outpatient treatment services are employed at admission, and, thanks to treatment, that number grows to 42.6% employed at discharge. For those who receive treatment at Halfway House Recovery Homes 13.3% are employed at admission and, as a result of treatment, a whopping 38.7% are employed at discharge.

“These numbers demonstrate the immediate impact on employability of individuals who have access to treatment,” said Foster. “These numbers also demonstrate the folly of cutting treatment if politicians are trying to help people get jobs.”

Since fiscal year 2009, the state has been hacking away at substance abuse treatment services, and Rauner’s proposed budget cut is “business as usual,” says Foster.

“Since 2009, the state has slashed $39.7 million from treatment, denying care to 8,941 individuals in order to solve annual, chronic budget problems,” said Foster. “The cutting of addiction health care by Governor Rauner is just Springfield business as usual. There’s no ‘shaking up Springfield. Simple-minded cutting is what Blagojevich and Quinn did each year.”

“Shaking up Springfield” would mean fully funding programs that help people reduce drug and alcohol use and that help them get back to work, not slashing funding, says Foster.

“A 2005 study by Bloomington-based Chestnut Health Systems of more than 800 Illinois adults reported that treatment produced a 58% decrease in drug and alcohol use and a 69% increase in employment engagement,” said Foster. “Cutting a program that delivers results and that helps low-income workers, minorities, and women is not “thinkin’ anew”, it’s just the same old Springfield playbook.”

In addition, Foster cited a 2006 study that revealed the substantive and dramatic effect that substance abuse treatment has on reducing Illinois crime and recidivism.

“A 2006 study of prisoners completing the Illinois Sheridan reentry prison treatment program revealed that 21% were less likely to be re-arrested for a new crime and 44% were less likely to return to prison,” said Foster. “The creation of the Sheridan program was a symbol of innovation, and the Rauner Administration needs to expand treatment for offenders if it is serious about reducing Illinois’ prisoner population.”