I made my morning calls to Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, IL Senate President Emil Jones (though voice mail was full so I had to write my message in an email), and IL Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan. I am a mad momma.
The State of Illinois is ranked dead last at 51 out of 50 states and Washington D.C. for how much funding is spent on developmental disabilities. We are 51 and Failing according to NAMI AND unbelievably falling even further behind.
In all their wisdom, the powers that be have cut $60.9 MILLION statewide in developmental disabilities services. For our local Developmental Services Center, its a whopping $300,000 in cuts. My family as been on a waiting list for Respite Care since December 2007 and were told it was a year long wait. I don't see it happening at all now.
Additionally, substance abuse services have received $55,000,000 in cuts and mental health services $35,600,000 in cuts according to Champaign County Mental Health Board and the Champaign County Board for Care and Treatment of Persons with a Developmental Disability. TRANSLATION: The State of IL is cutting off the lifeline for its citizens who are the most vulnerable. They THINK they are cutting funding to those without the ability to stand up and fight. They forgot about mama and papa bears.
At the Public Forum 2 nights ago I heard consumers, staff, and parents get up and speak about how these cuts to an already despicable budget will affect them. I heard about how the local DV and Rape Crisis Center will be pushed back to funding levels of 6 years ago. A staff member asked which child victim of sexual assault they should turn away from their door, one who is raped today or one who took a few years to find the courage to come forward? Substance abuse programs are in danger of locking their doors. Detox services will be gone.
I was not prepared for how emotional this forum would be. As I heard a mother describe her fears of what will happen to her child who has developmental disabilities after she is gone from this earth, I cried. I don't normally let myself think those thoughts about Sophie's life after Mark and I are gone. She said, 'it's horrible for parents to pray that we live only 1 day longer than our children with a DD' and my stomach lurched, my heart pierced with pain. Services are already years long, especially for our kids who grow up and commit the "crime" of turning 21. Group homes, work programs all at risk.
Two recovering addicts spoke and their words really affected me. Detox saved 'him.' Take detox programs away and the state will pay for 'him' anyway when he ends up in prison and it will be much more expensive. It's true. Cuts to these services won't make the expense go away. It just transfers them to the ER, the prisons, and the morgue. The other speaker suggested that we relocate detox to the Governor's mansion. I'm all for that.
To pour salt on the wound, the state has admitted to intentional 'slow-pay' POLICY of it's current bills and contractual obligations. In her August 27, 2008 letter to providers, Ms. Lilia Teninty of DHS stated "the payment cycle is being lengthened as much as necessary to accommodate reductions," bureaucrat-speak for "we have decided not to pay our bills on time." The Boys and Girls Club never received the $100,000 that they were 'given,' last year. Can you imagine saying that to your electric company, or mortgage lender/landlord?
So what to do? The IL House of Representatives has already voted to reinstate the funding cuts. If the Senate waits to reconvene in November, too many programs and services will be gone. They need to come back into session NOW and DO THE RIGHT THING AND PUT PEOPLE FIRST by reinstating the cuts!
Don't live in IL? Don't have to. Call on behalf of Sophie and all of us. Call once everyday. It only takes a couple of minutes and its not scary or hard at all. Don't let it remain true that they have received more calls about State Parks being closed than about these cuts. As it was said at the forum, trees will continue to grow, but people will die because of these cuts. Call and say, "Your (niece/granddaughter/friend) has a developmental disability and lives in IL. You are outraged about the cuts to developmental disability services. You want the Senate back now to reinstate the cuts. Sophie deserves these services to live her life to her fullest."
Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor100 W. Randolph Street, Ste. 16-100Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 814-2121207 State House Springfield, IL 62706 (217) 782-6830 http://www.illinois.gov/ or http://www.illinois.gov/gov/contactthegovernor.cfm
Emil Jones, Senate President 507 W. 111th Street Chicago, Il 60628 (773) 995-7748, 327 Capitol Building Springfield, IL 62706, (217) 782-2728 email@example.com
Michael J. Madigan, Speaker of the House6500 S. Pulaski Rd. Chicago, IL 60629 (773) 581-8000, 300 Capitol Building Springfield, IL 62706 (217) 782-5350 firstname.lastname@example.org
You may even direct these questions higher to United States Senator and Presidential Candidate Barak Obama. I know I am. Did you read this far? Congrats. Leave me a comment and I'll bake you a cookie.