70,000 to Lose Drug Treatment, Mental Health Services by End of July

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe (seated, second right) testified before Illinois House on Wednesday.

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe (seated, second right) testified before Illinois House on Wednesday.

(Springfield, IL) – Behavioral healthcare advocates today warned that a Illinois government shutdown would end drug treatment and mental health care services for 70,000 by the end of July.

The head of Illinois’s top behavioral healthcare group today testified before Illinois House lawmakers and said that the lack of a fiscal year 2016 budget means that by end of July approximately 60,000 men, women, and children would lose their mental health care and 10,000 would lose access to drug treatments services.

“If there is no money flowing to non-profit providers to pay for services by the end of July, there will be service shutdowns for 70,000 and layoffs,” said IADDA C.E.O Sara Moscato Howe. “There is no mystery here. The only question is only when, not if.”

Howe said that years of state budget cuts have financially weakened community social service providers.

“Among our community providers, after seven years of budget cuts totaling 40%, some providers are better prepared financially than others to absorb the financial shock of 90 to 95% of their income being indefinitely suspended,” said Howe. “However, unless that income is restored within a reasonable time frame, even the financially strongest operation will eventually cease to operate.”

According to Howe, a survey of her membership revealed that, for some, the shutdown has already begun. Others will begin shutting down in a matter of weeks.

“Two agencies are laying off 17 staff today and shuttering addiction prevention, addiction treatment, psychiatry and mental health crisis services immediately and another 22 will layoff staff and shutter services by the end of July,” said Howe. “Certainly, there are some providers with greater financial fire-power to withstand a government shutdown, but the layoffs and service shutdowns will continue to accelerate in the coming days and weeks.”

By the end of July, Howe projects that nearly a third of all community mental health services and all psychiatry and crisis services will stop – eliminating care for more than 60,000 men, women, and children. She said that at least 25% of addiction treatment services will be shuttered – eliminating care more than 10,000 individuals, including mothers with children.

Additionally, by the end of July, IADDA projects that nearly all addiction prevention programs will cease – eliminating services for 220,000 youth statewide.

Howe says that hospital emergency rooms will see an increase of individuals arriving with a mental health or addiction crisis and county jails will witness a surge of inmates.

“As has been noted repeatedly by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and echoed by many sheriffs across the state, without community-based addiction and mental health services available, the county jails often become a last resort for individuals in crisis,” said Howe. “However, law enforcement personnel are neither mental health professionals nor addiction treatment professionals.”

Howe urged Governor Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to work together to achieve a budget agreement.

“We urge the General Assembly and Governor Rauner to work together to find an immediate solution that will keep our community agencies open and the safety net in place for our citizens,” said Howe.

showe@iadda.org

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