Mental health service providers on Quinn's chopping block

2010-03-16T15:09:00Z Mental health service providers on Quinn's chopping blockBy Chris Essig |
March 16, 2010 3:09 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD -- School funding isn't the only thing on Gov. Pat Quinn's chopping block. Mental health service providers would see a $90 million cut under the plan floated by the Chicago Democrat last week.

That proposed cut is causing worry among some providers.

In Sullivan, the Moultrie County Counseling Center is bracing for a $46,000 reduction, which is roughly 10 percent of its $485,000 budget. More than half of the center's funding comes from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Director David Cole said Tuesday that the community mental health center serves both parents and children. With the cuts, the center will likely service 70 to 80 fewer clients and half of them will be children. The center typically serves 440 people.

Last year, the center cut one of its staff members, leaving it with 10 employees.

"We are very frugal," Cole said.

Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft emphasized the need for "shared sacrifice" with the state facing an unprecedented $13 billion budget deficit. Mental service providers are also in a tough situation because demand for their services has increased and Illinois has been unable to keep up with the funding.

"The need is growing and there is less and less money," said Kraft.

Even though Cole and his staff are looking at Quinn's cuts, many are skeptical the governor's budget proposal will be enacted by the General Assembly. State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said he doesn't think much of Quinn's proposal is "going to stick."

But cuts are likely on the way, McCarter said.

"Unfortunately we are going to have to reduce the size of government at some point," McCarter said. "It's not going to be easy. There is going to be some pain involved."

Cole also agreed that the budget is likely to be tweaked several times before it is enacted. But he fears so much attention will be placed on education that mental health services will be all but forgotten.

"We may not get the awareness we need to get a decent budget," Cole said.

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