The state of Illinois will cease to fund alcohol and drug treatment and prevention programs as of March 15, the News-Gazette reported Feb. 19. The cuts are part of Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed 2012 budget.
The cuts are scheduled to take effect March 15, not on July 1, when the 2012 fiscal year begins. If they are implemented, advocates say, many treatment providers will have to close their doors.
“It’s the most devastating picture possible,” said Sara Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association. “There’s real concern about the entire system being shut down because providers will close.”
Howe said that about 55,000 people, or “80 percent of our clients on March 15 would be thrown out of care.” The remaining twenty percent qualify for Medicaid, a federally-funded program, and would still be eligible for treatment services.
Bruce Suardini, of Prairie Health Systems, said that Medicaid only covered women, not men, and that the state planned to cut the rate at which it would reimburse providers for Medicaid-covered services by six percent.
Stacey Solano of the state Department of Human Services said in an email that the department’s budget deficit was due to “increased demand for services during the economic recession.”
Solano went on to say, “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.”
The state cuts would eliminate funding for prevention programs that serve about 230,000 youth a year, in addition to treatment programs. Howe said that people in need of treatment were already turning to hospital emergency rooms, which cost much more.
The total cuts to treatment funding proposed by the governor for 2012 total $54 million. Howe said her organization was talking to legislators about whether Quinn had the authority to make such deep cuts. “There’s still a question of the legality of cutting this much money at this time,” she said.