* Colleen Boraca, the director of the Northern Illinois University College of Law Health Advocacy Clinic in Aurora, writing in the Sun-Times…
Seven months ago, I wrote an op-ed about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts, highlighting their impact on “Frank.” Frank — homeless and suffering from mental illness — was working hard to put his life back together.
Frank had multiple agencies supporting him. He was living in Aurora at Hesed House, the state’s second largest homeless shelter. His substance abuse counselor was helping him maintain sobriety. He was attending sessions with a mental health counselor. He was receiving regular medical treatment at Aunt Martha’s Health and Outreach Center. He was also working with law students from the Northern Illinois University College of Law Health Advocacy Clinic, which helps clients access public benefits.
Frank had a history of mental health hospitalizations but was receiving regular care and medication. He was optimistic about moving out of Hesed House.
Now, Frank has a new home: jail. […]
Zero state funding has been catastrophic for social service agencies and the people they serve. The hours of Frank’s mental health and substance abuse counselors were cut back at Hesed House, making it harder for him to access treatment. When Frank does not receive needed treatment, his mental illness and addiction issues impair his judgment, and he ends up in jail. The cost is not just Frank’s. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every dollar spent on addiction treatment programs yields an average $4 to $7 benefit in reduced incarceration and costs of crime. […]
Frank and other Illinois residents rely heavily on Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, the state’s largest provider of social services. LSSI had to lay off 43 percent of its work force in January, resulting in the cutting of 30 programs — including Frank’s rehabilitation program — that serve 4,700 individuals. LSSI had little choice due to the $6 million unpaid by the state. The programs cut include those helping seniors, veterans, the homeless, individuals suffering from mental illness and those seeking drug/alcohol treatment.