Top Rauner Administration health officials said on Monday that the fiscal year 2017 state budget is taking shape and that they are seeking “partnerships” with community human services providers to help reshape Illinois’ health care landscape.
At the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association annual conference in Schaumburg on Monday Department of Human Services Secretary James Dimas, as part of a panel discussion, told a packed-room of non-profit behavioral healthcare providers that his department’s FY 2017 budget proposal gets delivered to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday.
In December, the state entered its six-month without a FY 2016 budget.
During his speech to the assembled local behavioral healthcare non-profit leaders, Dimas criticized the “across-the-board” budget cuts approach on human services in the FY 2016 fiscal plan and suggested that FY 2017 plan will include “hard choices” to establish priorities.
In his remarks to conference attendees Dimas also recognized that DHS’ elimination of grants totaling $27 million for psychiatric care in the current budget has caused hardship for both behavioral healthcare providers and communities but pledged a new funding model to deliver care, but declined to disclose any details.
“Psychiatric care is a core service to help individuals working to recover from mental illness, and it needs to be funded,” said CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey, following the panel presentation. “From Cairo to Rockford, 86% of Illinois community behavioral health providers have cut psychiatric care for low-income individuals who need treatment.”
Lindsey, who assumed his post in July, noted that the frozen $27 million is part of $288 million in broader behavioral healthcare funding for both community mental health and substance abuse treatment funding that has been blocked.
“Financial starvation is no longer a viable option if the state intends to maintain its commitment to those vulnerable Illinois citizens who need mental health care and drug treatment,” Lindsey said. “The budget stalemate is engulfing more community behavioral health care agencies and is pushing them towards a financial sinkhole.”
Following on Dimas’ presentation, DHS’ new mental health division director Diana Knaebe told non-profit leaders that the Rauner Administration’s plan to reshape the delivery of human services required “partnerships” between the state and community mental health providers, citing the new state law, House Bill 1, to fight the state’s heroin epidemic, as one area of “partnership.”
Health and Family Services director Felicia Norwood hit a high-note by hailing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act for providing a stable stream of behavioral health care funding and extending health care to an additional 620,000 Illinois residents through increased Medicaid enrollment. Norwood acknowledged, however, that the state’s healthcare infrastructure is “fragile.”
“The ongoing budge dispute has financially starved local behavioral healthcare providers,” Lindsey said. “A prolonged delay will only aggravate the state’s fraying health care system and infrastructure.”