In the ever-widening arc of budgets cuts proposed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, last week, another program comes under the knife. This time, it's prevention programs for and treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. The projected savings for the state would total $55 million in 2012.
The proposed cuts which would take effect March 15 apply to anyone without Medicaid coverage or the equivalent of 55,000 people. This drastic measure could also mean the loss of more than 5,000 jobs across the state. With only federal funding to rely on, which covers only women, many centers will be forced to close and men will have no services available to them at all.
Other repercussions include an increased burden on hospital emergency rooms, a potential increase in those using drugs and alcohol and increased costs in welfare and law enforcement. Hospital emergency rooms will be called upon to treat those who can no longer get treatment from the previously state-funded programs. Critics like Sara Howe, the chief executive officer of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association in Springfield, warn that without prevention programs, the number of youth who get involved with these substances could rise. She claims the state is also eliminating its funding for addiction-prevention services, which help almost 230,000 youths in communities throughout the state each year..
As substance abuse increases, the ability to make sound decisions and hold a job can decrease, impacting the welfare system in the state. It also strains law enforcement that have to deal with the consequences of those abusing drugs and alcohol and the often related crimes. Prevention is cheaper by far than treatment or incarceration.
The News Gazette of Central Illinois questioned the Department of Human Services about the proposed cuts and received an email reply from spokesperson Stacey Solano, who said "increased demand for services during the economic recession" caused the budget deficit within the department.
"The department is now faced with the difficult but necessary decision of reducing services in order to pay our bills for the remainder of the fiscal year while preserving core services. We are aware of the hardships these tough choices will create and value the commitment of our providers who serve some of the most vulnerable citizens of Illinois," her statement said.
The governor's budget proposal is for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, 2011, but Illinois lawmakers gave him the authority to create an emergency budget for 2011. With an operating budget deficit of over $400 million, there was no way the budget could be maintained at 2010 levels. Serious cuts are needed however lawmakers gave Governor Quinn no guidelines for his budget.
Social services were threatened in 2009 and 2010 during budget planning, causing supporters of those services to rally in Springfield and push for an income tax increase to fund services instead of seeing services cut. A three-year tax increase was implemented and now Quinn is cutting the services anyway.
- budget deficit
- substance abuse
- drug and alcohol addiction
- Social services
- Central Illinois
- income tax increase