Rosecrance leaders stressed the importance of funding for behavioral health services during a legislative event March 2 with state and local officials.
Illinois Senators Steve Stadelman and Dave Syverson attended the event, as did Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen and Joe McGraw, chief judge of the Illinois Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.
Newly elected Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed a budget for fiscal year 2016 that would cut millions of dollars from programs that fund substance abuse and mental health treatment. The budget is just a proposal at this point, but Rosecrance would lose a significant chunk of funding if Rauner’s recommendations are approved by the Illinois General Assembly.
Mary Ann Abate, Rosecrance vice president of public policy, outlined how Rosecrance has responded through the years as the need for services has increased. In response to the state’s closure of Singer Mental Health Center in 2012, Rosecrance opened a triage center in downtown Rockford so people experiencing psychiatric crises could be immediately evaluated and referred to or placed in appropriate care as soon as possible.
Late last year, triage services relocated to the new Rosecrance Mulberry Center, which also offers detoxification and crisis residential services for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. The center is a one-of-kind facility in Illinois, and its construction was funded by a state grant.
Rauner’s budget recommendations include about $56 million in cuts statewide to psychiatric leadership capacity grants, eligibility/disposition/assessment services and Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse global treatment services. Rosecrance receives a portion of those funds.
The cuts would also reduce funding for heroin addiction treatment services at a crucial time when deadly heroin overdoses are plaguing many Illinois communities.
“Cuts to mental health and addiction treatment don’t make fiscal sense, and that’s our message today,” Abate said. “More cuts just mean people with serious mental illness and substance abuse problems would go without treatment.
“If you invest in community-based treatment, you really promote recovery. Those services are essential, critical to our community and a cost-effective investment for the state of Illinois.”
State funding is especially crucial for this region because Boone and Winnebago counties have no local funding – aside from philanthropy that aids some programming and charity care – to support behavioral health services. In comparison, neighboring McHenry County distributed more than $8 million in 708 tax funds to agencies in 2014.
“The vulnerability that we have in Winnebago County is even greater than many of our neighbors because we have no local resources beyond what the state gives us,” Rosecrance President/CEO Philip Eaton said. “When these dollars go south, we can’t just fundraise ourselves out of that situation.”
After Monday’s presentation, attendees toured the Mulberry Center to see firsthand how mental health and substance abuse services are integrated under one roof and delivered in a cost-effective manner.