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While the eyes of many in Illinios have been focused on the proposed state cuts to education funding, Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler in a recent visit to Evanston brought to the fore proposed cuts in state funding to social services.

 Mental health services suffer the biggest cuts in the proposed state budget for 2011.  Ms Saddler reported that and other grim news for human services providers at a forum held by the Democratic Party of Evanston at the Hill Education Center on March 21.

The proposed budget calls for an overall decrease of $400 million to human services. Ms. Saddler said she told the legislative appropriations committee, “The budget is not one that we at DHS support.” She also said, “This budget is indefensible. With this budget for human services, we are shredding our safety net.”

Ms. Saddler provided estimates of the impact of those decreases: a total of 178,500 clients and 6,220 jobs will be affected. The state faces a $12 billion deficit, and the governor has proposed drastic cuts to human services, Ms. Saddler added. She provided the following information on proposed cuts:

Community health and prevention (across-the-board 10 percent cuts for most grant line appropriations) – $20 million

Developmental disabilities (through an across-the board reduction of 2.5 percent, and savings from the closing of Howe Developmental Center, among other things) – $133 million

Human capital development (such as immigrant integration services, child care, background checks for caregivers) – $104.5 million

Mental Health (reflecting the elimination of non-Medicaid community-based mental health services) – $90.7 million

Rehabilitation services (from changes in parameters and asset limits) – $19.5 million

Prevention and Treatment for Alcohol and Substance Abuse (reflecting an 8 percent reduction for non-Medicaid addition treatment) – $6.9 million 

As for a solution, Ms. Sadler said, “There are five pillars of recovery” from this economic slowdown: creating jobs, cutting costs, strategic borrowing, continued federal assistance and increased state revenues. “It will take all five of these strategies to solve our fiscal crisis,” she said.