United Way of McLean County President David Taylor, right, speaks with Center for Human Services Executive Director Tom Barr during an event at Illinois State University in 2016. Barr said Monday that CHS has suspended accepting new clients into its psychiatric program because of state and United Way funding cuts.

BLOOMINGTON — McLean County's mental health agency — which serves people with the greatest needs and fewest resources — has suspended accepting new clients into its psychiatric program because of declining support from the state and United Way of McLean County.

"We are not going to be accepting new referrals into the psychiatric program, effective immediately, until further notice," Tom Barr, executive director of the Center for Human Services (CHS), told The Pantagraph on Monday.

The psychiatric program, which serves people age 12 and older with severe and persistent mental illness, prescribes medicine to low-income clients and works with them to access the medicine because the vast majority don't have insurance or are on Medicaid or their deductibles are so high that they can't afford the medicine, Barr said.

Barr said Monday's decision doesn't impact CHS's other programs. "We continue to accept referrals in counseling, school outreach, recovery, case management and crisis programs."

The psychiatric program's 752 clients will continue to receive services, Barr said. "As some people we serve become more stabilized, we hope to refer them to other providers," he said.

Unless new sources of funding are found, "We'll continue to bring that number (of clients) down," Barr said. "We don't have a specific number (goal)."

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the psychiatric program served 997 clients, Barr said. All CHS programs combined served more than 3,300 people in the last fiscal year.

"It's heartbreaking for the governing board, the staff and myself to take this action," he said.

A CHS nurse recently resigned to take a position elsewhere and will not be replaced, said Barr, who has no plans for further cuts.

In 2015, Illinois Department of Human Services cut funding for psychiatric programs for community mental health agencies, which meant a $353,000 cut to the CHS psychiatric program. "That (state) funding was never restored," Barr said.

"We limited our number of new referrals by prioritizing people with the greatest needs and fewest resources," he said.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, the program served 1,326 people.

Since then, decreased community financial support for the United Way of McLean County meant that funding for the psychiatric program declined from $170,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, to $69,800 in the current fiscal year, Barr said.

United Way recently announced that it will focus its funding for 2019 on programs that affect youth and families. Barr is anticipating no United Way funding for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"We appreciate the transparency of United Way but that is the tipping point for us," Barr said.

CHS has spent $1.4 million of its reserves to keep the program going with $3.6 million remaining.

"We will continue to use our reserves to support the psychiatric program but we just can't do it at the rate we've been doing," Barr said.

Barr said CHS is looking to obtain funding from other local, state, federal and private sources.

United Way President David Taylor said, "We appreciate all the work that Tom and his staff and CHS do." But CHS and United Way actions "are indicative of what a lot of nonprofits are having to do: prioritizing what we can and can't do."

"The decision that CHS is announcing underscores how important it is to consider local organizations, like United Way, for funding," Taylor said.

Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.