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Today’s must-read

Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017

* The Southern takes a look at poverty in nine deep-south Illinois counties: Gallatin, Hardin, Pope, Massac, Pulaski, Alexander, Johnson, Union and Saline

• According to Fahe, an organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty in Appalachia, the average poverty rate of the counties that make up the Appalachian region is 19.7 percent. The average poverty rate for the nine Illinois counties that constitute the Illinois Ohio River Valley region is 19.9 percent, as of the 2015 U.S. Census estimates.

• In four of the nine counties, the poverty rates are above 20 percent. They are Alexander, at 34 percent; Saline County, at 23 percent; Hardin, 21 percent; and Pulaski 20 percent. […]

• Seven school districts had a student population loss of greater than 10 percent between 2013 and 2017: Buncombe (Johnson County), at 22 percent; Meridian (Pulaski County), at 20 percent; Cairo (Alexander County), at 17 percent; Egyptian (Pulaski County) and Shawnee (Union County), at 16 percent each; Cobden (Union County) and Century (Pulaski County), at 13 percent each. […]

• The opioid epidemic is hitting Southern Illinois harder than any other region in the state. Seven of the nine counties — Hardin, Pope, Saline, Gallatin, Massac, Union and Alexander — ranked in the top 10 in terms of Schedule II opioid prescriptions per patient in 2016, according to a recent report by the Belleville News-Democrat, which cited data from the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program. Four of those counties were in the top five: Hardin, at 3.51 prescriptions per patient; Pope, at 3.16; Saline, at 2.99; and Gallatin, at 2.97. […]

• Child abuse and neglect rates are well above the statewide rate in all nine counties, and double or more the statewide rate in the counties of Alexander, Hardin, Massac, Saline and Gallatin, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

• Child sexual abuse rates are triple the statewide rate in Alexander, Hardin, Gallatin and Saline.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:23 am:

    I knew things were really, really bad, but…

    – MrJM

  2. - illini - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    This is one of those times when Rich does an excellent job of highlighting the most salient points.

    But reading the entire article is a must to more fully understand the gravity of the issue. It is just too easy for this part of our state to be ignored.

  3. - Been there - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    It seems like the media “discovers” the deep south about every ten years.

  4. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:33 am:

    Lack of economic opportunities usually equates to social issues. Not an easy turn around. Sympathy to that region..

  5. - Montrose - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:35 am:

    It’s good the Southern is highlighting this and that Rich is sharing it with this audience. I wish I knew how to talk to folks in Chicago about the southern seven so they would actually care.

  6. - Southern Illinois Boy - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    I went to school and grew up in Carbondale. It isn’t just the 9 bottom counties that are in distress. Carbondale is becoming a ghost town, with hundreds of homes and apartments offered for sale or rent.
    3 years ago I drove back to Springfield via DuQuoin, Centralia, Vandalia, Pana, etc. I was astounded by the signs of all the businesses that had closed within the previous 2 years and homes that were in relatively recent neglect. Things have not gotten better since then.
    Southern Illinois is an open sore in this State, but the decline stretches far wider than just those far southern 9 counties.

  7. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:39 am:

    Rauners response is to cut aid and delay support payments to children’s homes throughout the region. It is tough, this tough love approach. But he hops on this Harley and leaves petty problems of the day for someone else to figure out. He is merely Governor. It is not like he is Speaker of the House or somethin’ important.

  8. - Saluki - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:40 am:

    Molly Parker continues to impress. The Deep south has little to offer politicos but hard work and tough choices. This gives the politicians in power at the state level little motivation to get involved, and fosters an environment that makes corruption by the local leaders possible.

  9. - JB13 - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    This region is right to feel forgotten.

    Years ago, companies wanted to bring jobs to the region, via the New Albany shale play. But, no: Well-heeled folks in Chicago and the burbs think fracking is icky, and renewables are the way of the future, so… SOL So. IL. No one cares what you think.

    But ask yourself: How much better would those counties be at this point, if they had been allowed to determine their own path, rather than waiting for Chicago Democrats to stall as they figured out a way to rig the regulatory system to block shale oil extraction without formally, legally prohibiting it?

  10. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:50 am:

    The importance that Illinois is a whole state, not regional rivals fighting for attention and resources should be what the next administration, (be it Rauner or his opponent), takes as it’s mantra.

    To “today”, not January 2019, this continued neglect, this belief that we as a state can’t, today, look to give all Illinois citizens the safety, and legal and social needs, that other wealthier areas is not a political choice, nor should it be.

    My point being, as regional strife continues and the want to pin regions against each other is cheered, real people are being hurt in ALL regions, because everyone is pulling against everyone else “not them”

    We are a state, diverse and wide spectrumed. We have problems that shouldn’t be dismissed as geographical biases predicate the attacking of these problems.

    Having a big picture thought shouldn’t be a person willing to see problems as problems beyond zip codes.

    “One State” or is exactly that. We need to see the problems “downstate” as Illinois problems, not just regional issues.

  11. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:51 am:

    I know its out of fashion, but what Southern Illinois needs is big government New Deal programs. Southern Illinois doesn’t have a major metropolis to attract companies, no one wants to buy Illinois coal anymore. Money should be IV’d to the University at the very least.

  12. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:56 am:

    Here are the Southern’s top employers in the area:

    Glister-Mary Lee, Chester
    Harrah’s Casino, Metropolis
    Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, Carbondale
    Menard Correctional Center, Menard
    Nascote Industries, Nashville
    SIU Carbondale, Carbondale

    I see two manufacturers there. I know Rauner’s proposals for how to keep them there. I know progressive alternatives. But I don’t know what the Democrats propose.

  13. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 11:59 am:

    It’s the same story across the entire Ohio River Valley; that’s a true economic and cultural unit, across many states, unlike the artificial confines of state borders.

  14. - Ghost - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    Where is the GOP complaint about Chicago revenue going to bail out these fiscally irresponsible counties

  15. - Blue dog dem - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    It truely is a depressed area. A bit of a controversial thought. Rather than dumping more money into a failed housing complex in Cairo. Pay for moving expenses.

    There are few jobs available. The region must revitalize on its own terms. Sorry. Young people cant wait around a decade with only the hope that the govt creates a 100 jobs. Move. Give your children a chance.

  16. - SOIL M - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:22 pm:

    I have been looking at the economic situation from a different angle. “We need jobs” is always the answer given by politicians, but in my opinion it might not be the right answer. We need working people. Everybody, everywhere needs more jobs but at this time we might look at attracting people who work in the area to live in the area. People from 4 different states drive to work in Cairo every day, and drive back home as fast as they can. They come from Mt Vernon to Poplar Bluff Mo., to South Fulton TN, and all areas in between. The major employers in Cairo have very small percentages of employees that actually live in the Cairo area. The same thing with Harrahs, Gilster-Mary Lee, and Menard. They have people who drive from Mo. and Ky there also, though not as large of percentage.
    I dont have an answer to how to fix this, but think the answer is in making the communities more attractive to working people to want to live and raise families in them. With them they will bring additional revenue to the towns and counties with the taxes they pay in the town where they work, and more jobs as stores and restaurants can survive and thrive in these areas. What I do not know is how to accomplish that.

  17. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:31 pm:

    The picture of nature retaking the tax sale house is mesmerizing.

  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    ==There are few jobs available. The region must revitalize on its own terms. Sorry. Young people cant wait around a decade with only the hope that the govt creates a 100 jobs. Move. Give your children a chance.==

    That’s already happening, of course. Alexander County lost 9% of its population 2010-14. See

  19. - IllinoisBoi - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    That last anonymous message was mine.

  20. - SOIL M - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:39 pm:

    IllinoisBoi— A large part of, but not all of that is due to the buy out after the 2011 flood. Not only has Alexander Co. lost that many people, it also lost over 140 pieces of property off of tax books. Many of them went to MO

  21. - Rabid - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:42 pm:

    If this is part of the state Rauner is fightin against he’s doing a good job

  22. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:57 pm:

    CERN wants to build a replacement for the Large Hadron Collider. How about trying to get CERN to build it in Southern Illinois?
    What about moving Guantanamo Bay detenion camp to Thomson Prison?

  23. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 12:57 pm:

    We need Healthcare Enterprise Zones
    It solves several problems at once
    Access to medical care
    Senior care
    Medical focus to community colleges.

    Just mimic the EZ zones for manufacturing
    Well worth the investment

  24. - Liberty - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    Obviously the solution for So IL is a right to work zone.

  25. - DeseDemDose - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 1:30 pm:

    What specifically has Rauner given Southern Illinois other than empty promises and blatant lies.

  26. - blue dog dem - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 1:32 pm:

    Des. Southern illinois’ demise started long before Rauner.

  27. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 2:59 pm:

    With its natural beauty and more temperate climate, SoIL could become a tourism and retirement haven. Unfortunately, the state will at some point need the tax income that retirees offer, making that angle a harder uphill climb.

  28. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 3:16 pm:

    Two quick thoughts.

    1) Molly Parker is a great voice for the people of Southern Illinois. I read all her stuff.

    2) The last governor to really give a darn about the area below I-64 was Jim Thompson.

  29. - JIsbell - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 3:59 pm:

    As a Children’s Pastor in Johnson County, I see firsthand the effects of poverty in our region. To combat this, we have launched a summer food program serving thousands of meals, a school supply giveaway which provided 475 students with school supplies, and so many other great community events. Sadly, financial support is limited in our poverty-stricken region, but we make the most out of what we get. We anticipate an even greater need in 2018 and are having to start earlier and earlier on creative ways to raise funding for our two signature student programs in summer food and school supplies.

  30. - MyTwoCents - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 5:25 pm:

    This article should be a call to action to address the systemic poverty issues that address too many of Illinois’ rural areas, however I’m pessimistic. That being said, The Southern has been impressing me for awhile. Molly Parker in particular has been doing outstanding work on in-depth issues. Articles like this highlight the continuing value of local newspapers.

  31. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 6:49 pm:

    Big Bad Wolf 12:57

    While moving Guantanamo to Thomson Prison might be a good idea, it will do nothing for southern IL. The prison is way up in NE Illinois near Savanna, probably 400 miles away from the subject area of this article.

  32. - Almost the Weekend - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 7:27 pm:

    It would be nice for people to think Illinois as a state is all in this together instead of bringing Chicago. Or downstate v. The city. The one thing Rauner has accomplished is make this state more divided than ever.

  33. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 9:39 pm:

    This is what happens when communities are filled with people who have abandoned the three rules of a successful life.

    1. Finish high school
    2. Marriage before children
    3. Work

    If these three simple rules are followed, poverty rates will plummet. Only 7% of families that do these three things, live in poverty. Even if we double that 7%, the poverty rate would be much better than today.

    It doesn’t matter race. Those three simple rules should be driven into every head in this region. There is hope. It lies with tbe traditional foundation of the family.

    Governments can help, but cannot replace what these communities have abandoned. We need to work with this region and do all we can to assist the rebuilding of families following these three simple rules of success.

  34. - striketoo - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 10:07 pm:

    “Hopefully, now, we’ll see more Southern Illinois coal mines open back up to ship coal to these particular plants.”
    If this is their attitude they deserve what they get. You don’t destroy the plan

  35. - striketoo - Tuesday, Nov 14, 17 @ 10:09 pm:

    Try again. “Hopefully, now, we’ll see more Southern Illinois coal mines open back up to ship coal to these particular plants.”
    If this is their attitude they deserve what they get. You don’t destroy the planet for your own gain.

  36. - blue dog dem - Wednesday, Nov 15, 17 @ 5:29 am:

    Vanilla. Great stuff. Again. You have become the
    ronald reagan of the CapFax.

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