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BLOOMINGTON — Health and human services providers in Central Illinois were concerned Wednesday that Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget calls for cuts to Medicaid and other programs ranging from child care to substance abuse intervention.

"Illinois is already ranked as the lowest in per-patient spending on Medicaid and this proposal will only make matters worse," said Chris Manson, vice president of government relations for OSF HealthCare. "We also understand that this proposal is only the beginning of a lengthy budget process."

Rickielee Benecke, advocacy and advancement director for LIFE Center for Independent Living, said: "We are very concerned with the proposed cuts to numerous disability-related programs and Medicaid, all of which would be detrimental to people with disabilities. We encourage the General Assembly to work on a bipartisan agreement that does not harm people with disabilities but instead strengthens home and community-based services."

Jim Runyon, executive vice president of Easterseals Central Illinois, was pleased that the proposed budget calls for $3 million more in early intervention funding for services that include early childhood occupational, physical, speech and developmental therapy.

But Runyon was disappointed that the proposed budget calls for a 7.5 percent reduction in The Autism Program. Easterseals and Illinois State University are among recipients of that money for autism diagnostics, resource centers and parental training.

Lisa Pieper, regional vice president with Children's Home + Aid, noted that Rauner mentioned jobs and education more than 20 times in his budget address. But investments in human services — such as child care, coaching first-time parents, mental health and after-school programs — are just as important, she said.

The budget proposal calls for a cut in Illinois' contribution to the child care assistance program (CCAP) by more than 20 percent, Pieper said. The program provides subsidies for child care for low-income parents who are working or in school and the program has been successful, she said.

In Bloomington, Children's Home + Aid serves more than 180 children of low-income working and in-school parents at Scott Early Learning Center.

"Any cuts to the CCAP program would be devastating to families, forcing many to quit their jobs or drop out of school," Pieper said.

But she applauded the governor favoring investing in the Department of Children and Family Services' Intact Family Services program.

Chestnut Health Systems CEO Dave Sharar said, "The suggestion by the governor that the number of individuals who can avail themselves of substance use disorder and mental health services should be reduced ... flies in the face of public needs that are so clearly evidenced by the opiate crisis in every part of Illinois."

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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