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Illinois mental health funding likely facing more cuts, despite Quinn’s promise of increase

Rita Winkeler thinks her developmentally disabled son has a bright future, but she worries it is being clouded by state budget cuts because the center where he son lives is

English: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn addresses...
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)


Winkeler’s son, and more than 250 others with mental and developmental disabilities, gets his care at the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center. Last year, Illinois announced plans to close the center and shift its residents into community-based care centers.

But Winkeler, president of the Murray Parents Association, says the residents of the center facility will not get the support they need in the community-based programs backed by Gov. Pat Quinn. So last month the association filed a lawsuit against the state to stop the closure.

Winkeler said she could not comment on the lawsuit.

Murray’s pending closing is a result of major cuts in state mental health funding in recent years, and many are worried even more cuts are coming next year, in spite of a promised increase in funds.

In his budget address on March 6, Quinn promised to increase mental health funding by $25 million next year, but some experts and legislators are skeptical that the funding will come through.

“Unfortunately, his track record is not about increasing-but about decreasing-funding,” said Frank Anselmo, chief executive officer of the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois.

Anselmo said he appreciated what the governor said but added, “we’ll see if that happens.”

Quinn’s office did not respond to questions regarding funding for mental health facilities.

One lawmaker could not confirm the funding for mental health services would be available after the budget had been finalized.

State Rep. Greg Harris, a senior Democrat from Chicago who chairs a committee over human services, said there will have to be between $600 million and $1 billion in across-the-board budget cuts.

This is because, according to the proposed budget, the governor is expecting $35.6 billion in available funding, but the state House is expecting closer to just under $35.1 billion.

It’s too early to know how and if this money will be given out, said Charles N. Wheeler III, director of the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois in Springfield. However, the governor is heading in the direction of community-based care because it saves money, he said.

Earlier in the year, the governor announced that he would close two state-run facilities and move the patients into community care, a move that made many Illinoisans, including Winkeler, angry.

“It’s not a one-size-fits all world,” she said about the governor’s move to close and condense state-run facilities in favor of community-based care. “People require different kinds of care.”

State Rep. Patricia Bellock of Hinsdale and the Republican leader for a budget committee on human services, said closures are a huge loss, adding that the money from the closures needs to go back into the community services rather than charged to those affected.

Last year the governor closed three state-run mental health facilities and added Murray to that list this year. Six of 12 mental health facilities in Chicago were added to the list of closures when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced they would consolidate the facilities to save the city money.

The unfortunate result of closing these facilities is that people with mental disabilities do not get the care they need and wind up in jail, said Mark Heyrman, clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago.

An estimated 12 to 18 percent of people in jail have mental disabilities and are often there because they are committing small crimes just to get by, said Heyrman, who has chaired and served on at least six state mental health committees, including one for former Gov. James R. Thompson.

Winkeler said she hopes for the best for the residents of Murray.

“We’re going to keep fighting for all people [on the mental handicap spectrum] because they deserve the best of care,” she said.

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