Illinois Budget Crisis: SchuyIer County Mental Health Center in Danger of Closing by June 1

(Rushville, IL) – As the Illinois legislature struggles to craft a budget by its May 31 adjournment deadline, the Schuyler County Mental Health Center is adding itself to the list of behavioral health centers across the state that is in danger of closing within the next 10 days.

“We have been waiting for multiple payments from the State of Illinois for multiple months and have been unable to consistently meet payroll,” said Executive Director Trent Chockley. “And we’re not only waiting for payment for mental health and substance abuse treatment services, but we also have unpaid bills from the Illinois Department on Aging.”

The agency provides services to nearly 60 people, over the age of 60, every month and the state owes Schuyler a total of $64,000 for just the services provided under the Illinois Department on Aging’s Community Care Program.

“The State of Illinois continues to add deserving clients to their list that we need to serve, but has no willingness to pay the bills,” said Chockley. “We are dangerously close to shutting our doors for good without payment by June 1.”


Report: 60% of IL Behavioral Health Providers Say Budget Impasse Pushes Out Physicians, Clinical Staff over “Job Insecurities”

IABH CEO Sara Howe

(Springfield, IL) – Illinois’ behavioral health first responders are abandoning community providers across the state as the state budget impasse has unleashed a “tsunami” of “job insecurities,” according to new a survey.

The Illinois Association for Behavioral Health and the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities on Wednesday rolled out a statewide membership survey that reveals that 60.3% of Illinois behavioral health providers have “lost physicians or clinical staff due to job insecurities.”

“A tsunami of job insecurities is washing over behavioral health providers from Chicago to Cairo and is igniting a brain drain of vital behavioral health first responders for mental health crisis and drug overdoses,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe. “When we talk about ‘infrastructure’ collapse because of the Illinois budget impasse, this is what we mean. That is the loss of clinical staff, doctors, and psychiatrists who are no longer willing to endure the chaotic lack of funding.”

The state currently owes behavioral health providers $143 million for Fiscal Year 2017 for services already delivered, stretching back to July 1, 2016, or 90% of the amount budgeted for the current year.

“Worry over whether someone’s job will be around next month or next week is pushing talented clinical staff to find more secure employment,” said Howe. “Who can blame them?”


Op-Ed: Proposed Rauner Budget Fails to Meet Mental Health, Addiction Health Care Needs

OP-ED: Illinois has a staggering behavioral healthcare challenge and it needs a budget to meet that challenge.

Recent data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration underscores the need for a strong, well-funded community-based system of addiction and mental health services in Illinois.

Between 2010 and 2014, the behavioral healthcare challenges, such as depression, suicide risk, drug and/or alcohol abuse, for Illinois men, women, and children have mounted.

  • About 105,000 adolescents’ ages 12-17 report having at least one major depressive episode, while only 38% received treatment for their depression.
  • 355,000 adults 18 and over report ‘serious thoughts of suicide’; while ~363,000 qualified for a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) diagnosis.
  • Of the 1.53 million Illinois adults having ‘any mental illness’ (AMI) in the previous year, more than 55% did not receive mental health treatment.
  • Similarly, only 11.7% of the estimated 267,000 individuals 12 and older dependent on or abusing illicit drugs received treatment for their substance use disorder.

While behavioral problems and needs are clear, funding for addiction and mental illness prevention and treatment has been continually reduced by the Illinois General Assembly. In the past five years, the legislature has slashed state funding for addiction prevention, cut addiction treatment by 40% and mental health treatment by nearly 25%.

Meanwhile, an epidemic of heroin and non-medical use of prescription drugs has exploded across the state, forcing Illinois’ jails and correctional centers to become ill-equipped triage centers for individuals with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has repeatedly stated that the Cook County Jail is now the ‘largest mental health institution in the country’, and a majority of the individuals under his care are also there as a result of untreated addiction.

Over the past several years, Illinois has witnessed an expansion of mental health and addiction parity, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and a shift from state General Revenue Funds and Medicaid funding to a system of Managed Care funding, all of which has been implemented by providers in the trenches. At the same time, providers have borne uncompensated, additional expenses associated with implementation of Electronic Health Records and electronic billing. These changes have occurred while the legislature has almost annually imposed funding reductions on community providers, refused to raise historically low reimbursement rates, and left unresolved a Fiscal Year 2016 budget impasse that threatens to undermine our system of community-based care at its core.

While the staggering challenges to Illinois behavioral healthcare community providers continue to bear down, the policy prescription in the form of Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed FY 2017 falls, let us say, short. In fact, the Governor’s budget proposal continues to move Illinois in the wrong direction, threatening to decimate the already-weakened safety net for Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.

At a time when the need to prioritize state dollars for the maximum return on investment, reductions to the community behavioral health system are short-sighted and ill-conceived.

Data from national studies have concluded that addiction and mental health treatment not only produces measurable, positive outcomes, but also yields substantial savings to states. A 2014 actuarial study by Milliman found that $26-$48 billion could be saved nationally through effective integration of medical and behavioral services.

Additionally, several studies underscore the positive impact of addiction and mental health services:

  • A 2004 randomized trial studying employer costs found that ‘consistently-employed patients in an enhanced depression management program had 8.2% greater productivity and 28.4% less absenteeism over two years than employees receiving ‘usual care’.
  • The reduction in absenteeism and increase in productivity had an estimated annual value of $2,601 per full-time equivalent employee.
  • The state of Washington compared disabled Medicaid enrollees receiving SU treatment with the untreated population, finding that average monthly medical costs were $414 higher for those not receiving treatment, and with the cost of the treatment added in, there was a net cost offset of $252 per month or $3,024 per year. For individuals with opiate-addiction, cost offsets rose to $899 per month for those who remain in methadone treatment for at least one year.
  • The same study also found that prior to their SUD treatment expansion initiative, healthcare costs for Medicaid disabled clients with SUD problems were rising at a rate of 11% per year. Under the SUD treatment expansion initiative, the growth in healthcare costs was slowed to just 2.8% per year.

The solution is clear.

The Illinois General Assembly and the Governor must prioritize funding for addiction and mental illness prevention, treatment, and recovery support. Lawmakers and the Governor need to end the funding reduction cycle. Now. Instead, Lawmakers and the Governor need to close the gap between those needing behavioral healthcare and those receiving it. Lawmakers and the Governor need to invest in behavioral healthcare.

The governor’s proposed FY 2017 budget fails to do that.

The budget needs a do over.

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association

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.”


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.”

Op-Ed: Boosting Prevention Funding Can Help Blunt Illinois Heroin Crisis

Eric Foster, COO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, testifying earlier this year before the House Human Services Appropriations Committee.

Eric Foster, COO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, testifying earlier this year before the House Human Services Appropriations Committee.

(Springfield, IL) – Op-Ed: Where does the Illinois heroin crisis stand today?

“While Chicago remains a hub for the heroin trade in the U.S., an increased availability of purer, cheaper heroin that can be effectively snorted has contributed to the expansion of what once was primarily an urban issue into a problem affecting users in a wide variety of areas and demographics, especially youth in suburban Cook Co. and the collar counties.”

That is an accurate depiction of the current Illinois Heroin epidemic.

Except for one thing.

This excerpt was written in the conclusion of a Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC, Inc.) Issues and Statistics report ‘Heroin in Illinois’ – in March 2007.

What has changed?

The problem has grown only worse.

Heroin use has been increasing at an alarming rate. From 2007 to 2011, overdose deaths attributed to heroin increased by 115% in Lake County, 100% in Will County, and by 50% in McHenry County.

And now a new Illinois House Task Force, chaired by Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and vice-chair State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), has drawn 37 lawmakers to tackle the Illinois heroin problem.

In fact, 35 of those legislators are sponsoring a House Resolution, 883, declaring a heroin “State of Emergency” in Illinois.

Nevertheless, over the last seven years in the midst of this escalating epidemic and that of non-medical use of prescription drugs by young adults, Governor Pat Quinn and the legislature has chosen to drastically cut funding for addiction prevention and treatment services.

Between 2008 and 2014 the State of Illinois has eliminated $52 million (44%) in funding for substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. Drug treatment services for those struggling with addiction to alcohol and drugs were cut by $45 million (41%).


While services, designed to prevent the abuse of alcohol and drugs – including Heroin­ – primary alcohol and drug prevention was slashed by $6.6 million (88%).


Today, Illinois commits no more than a pitiful $1,000,000 annually to prevention.

Meanwhile, the number of 10th and 12th graders who have ridden in a car with a teenager who had been drinking or using drugs in the past year is on the rise with 24% and 33%, respectively.

Every dollar spent on school-based addiction prevention efforts produces $18 in savings related to health, work loss, and other social costs. This is a net savings of $3,757 per youth served.

That’s why the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association and The Illinois Collaboration on Youth are calling on lawmakers and Governor Quinn to take necessary steps to repair the drug prevention system by restoring funding to its FY 2012 level of $2,663,000 from its miserly $1,000,000 in FY 2015.

It is important to remember that, notwithstanding the growing epidemic of heroin use and overdose, there are hundreds of thousands of Illinois citizens who struggle every day with alcohol and other drug addictions who also cannot gain access to treatment.

Without adequate funding for these lifesaving prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, there is no end in sight for this epidemic.

Without the state’s help, the corpses in County morgues will continue to pile up.

Eric Foster, COO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association

Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Budget Eliminates Drug Prevention for 34,593 Illinois Youth

Illinois substance abuse prevention funding cuts are a ritual in Illinois. But IADDA and its supporters have repeatedly fought back–and won.

(Springfield, IL) – Illinois’ alcohol and drug prevention advocates today denounced Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed budget for next year, saying it will eliminate drug prevention services for more than 34,593 Illinois youth.

“This budget will break the back of Illinois’ drug prevention system helping youth while a heroin and synthetic drug epidemic is sweeping Illinois,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

Quinn’s newly unveiled fiscal year 2013 budget eliminates $2.6 million or 100% from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Family and Community Services for prevention which will reduce the number youth being target for drug prevention.

In fiscal year 2008 Illinois spent $7.5 million in state money on youth prevention.

“The days of heroin use being confined to the wrong people in the wrongs are gone. It is a plague of all communities, all incomes and all children,” said Wayne Hunter, Lake County sheriff chief of administration, Daily Herald, January 31, 2012.

In Lake County, heroin deaths increased 130% from 2000 to 2009. In McHenry,  in three years heroin deaths zoomed 150% higher. In Will County, in two years, deaths doubled.

In addition to heroin, synthetic drug use, like “K2”, “Spice” and “Bath Salts”, is an escalating problem among youth, said Howe.

“Illinois had one of the highest call rates to the Poison Control Centers for these synthetic drugs in 2010 and 2011,” said Howe.

“Year after year after year an Illinois governor has tried to completely eliminate successful drug prevention programs to save a little money up front, but  such a move just ignites youth addictions, while a heroin and synthetic drug epidemic is sweeping the Chicago suburbs and down state Illinois,” said Howe.


Illinois Medicaid Spending to Increase 41% in 5 Years, Civic Federation Report Says

(Springfield, IL) – A new report released Monday from the Civic Federation, a Chicago-based nonpartisan policy group that focuses on state spending, predicts Illinois’ Medicaid costs will skyrocket over the next five years.

Laurence Msall, federation president, said lawmakers and governors have spent Illinois into a deep hole by expanding Medicaid, which provides health-care coverage to low-income families.

“What is most frightening is that even after the income tax, the state was not able to pass a budget to fully fund Medicaid,” Msall said, referring to a 67 percent personal income tax increase and a 48 percent corporate income tax increase in January 2011.

But even with that additional revenue, Illinois lawmakers still had to pay more than $1 billion in 2011 Medicaid bills.

The Civic Federation report paints a grim picture for Medicaid spending:


Illinois Pension Costs Squeeze Illinois Budget, Gov. Pat Quinn Says

(Springfield, IL) – The arithmetic behind Gov. Pat Quinn’s first budget proposal of the new year is grim.

Illinois will be facing an $800 million deficit within three years, despite tax revenue projected to grow by more than $1 billion a year.

Illinois’ fiscal reality is bleak, said Kelly Kraft, the governor’s budget spokeswoman.

“These projections clearly demonstrate that action must be taken to control not only Medicaid costs but also (pension) costs or all other areas of government will continue to be squeezed,” Kraft said in a statement.

Quinn on Tuesday released his three-year budget projection in which Illinois in fiscal 2013 is expected to spend $33.7 billion, about $1.5 billion more than this year. By fiscal 2015, Illinois’ expenditures will reach $34.2 billion, or $2 billion more than the current budget.

The governor’s fiscal outline is part of the state’s Budgeting for Results initiative. Lawmakers created this process in 2011 to force the governor to craft a realistic budget within the financial means of the state.

The majority of the additional spending will be on public employee pensions.

Quinn’s own numbers project an $818 million deficit by 2015, even after holding spending flat on Medicaid, elementary and high school funding, and state government services.


Governor Pat Quinn Signs Budget Bill to Restore $28 Million to Illinois Substance Abuse Treatment Services

(Springfield, IL) – Governor Pat Quinn yesterday signed legislation that restores $28 million to Illinois substance abuse treatment services that were cut inadvertently earlier this year.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2412, reallocated money within the current Illinois budget to reinstate the treatment funding.

“We are thankful to Governor Quinn for signing the measure into law,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

The following budget line items were restored:

  • Addiction Treatment Medicaid: $7.6M
  • Addiction Treatment Services: $16.9M
  • Addiction Treatment for DCFS Clients: $2M
  • Addiction Treatment for Special Populations: $1.5M

The bill also includes $30 million for community-based mental health services, mental health centers, burial services for the homeless and the poor, homelessness prevention programs, and need-based financial aid for college students.

Finally, the legislation will ensure that no state-run mental health or developmental disability centers will be closed this fiscal year.

“The tireless advocacy efforts of IADDA and its member agencies were key to achieve this significant victory,” said Howe. “And the leadership and the commitment of State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and State Senator Heather Steans were absolutely central in the successful restoration.”

The current state budget runs until June 30, 2012.