Failure of State to Pay Illinois Substance Abuse Treatment Providers Pushes Agencies to Financial Edge; Quinn, Giannnoulias, Hynes Urged to Back Short-Term Loan

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO, IADDA

(Chicago, IL) – January 11, 2010. The State of Illinois’s inability to pay its $5.1 billion backlog of bills is threatening the ability of Illinois substance abuse providers to treat the estimated 98,000 individuals annually enrolled and provide care to the children of women in treatment.

The state owes prevention and treatment providers an estimated $43 million in unpaid bills, much of that amount stretching back six months.

“Though some payments are trickling in, the state has, essentially, stopped paying treatment providers for their work,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO at the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

For example, the state owes Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) approximately $1.2 million for this fiscal year, in addition to nearly $300,000 for the previous fiscal year.

LSSI, which provides substance abuse treatment to nearly 5,000 people annually, is facing grave decisions regarding the treatment and other services it can provide if the agency continues to go unpaid.

Rev. Dr. Denver Bitner, LSSI president/CEO

“We have almost exhausted our savings and lines of credits to keep paying our employees so that our agency can continue to operate,” said the Rev. Dr. Denver Bitner, LSSI president/CEO.

In addition to its substance abuse treatment services, the major human services provider serves more than 72,000 people annually through a wide variety of services for children, families and adults of all ages, including seniors.

“The State’s failure to pay us for services we’ve already provided — some going back to last fiscal year — jeopardizes our ability to continue to provide the care and treatment that men, women and their children need,” said Bitner.

“How long could you keep your house if you boss failed to pay you for six months?”

According to Bitner, LSSI employs 163 people in its substance abuse treatment programs. Of its nearly 5,000 clients, many are women with children.

“When women come for help, they don’t come alone—they come with children,” said Bitner. “The women will lose their treatment and this will directly affect the well-being of their children

Illinois currently has a backlog of $5.1 billion in unpaid bills, and the payment cycle is, in some cases, six-months from the time a bill is submitted to the state until payment is received by a vendor.

“Program closures, client service cuts, and staff lay-offs are not empty warnings if the state continues to not pay its bills to us,” said

Diana Martinez, 32 years old; single mother with 3 children, LSSI client

Bitner. “We have taken loans to pay the state’s bills—the state should also take the loans necessary to pay its own bills.”

“Across the state, agencies like Lutheran Social Services of Illinois are taking loans to pay their bills because the state is failing to do so,” said Howe. “Governor Pat Quinn, Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Comptroller Dan Hynes need to reach immediate agreement on a short term-loan to help pay the state’s bills.”

“We have reduced our costs as much as possible. In fact, last year, we reduced our cost of providing treatment services by approximately 15 percent.

“Any further cuts will severely affect our ability to serve people and add to the state’s unemployment rolls,” added Bitner.”