Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed numerous cuts in his fiscal year 2016 budget, including more than $94 million from behavioral health care, treatment, and services. For those who receive services at WellSpring Resources, the proposed cuts will be a hard blow to bear, a WellSpring administrator said.
Interim Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Craig said the proposed cuts would cost the agency more than $1.8 million in community services funds. That could mean nearly 4,000 children, adults and senior citizens would not receive mental health or substance abuse services.
The proposed cuts are in addition to looming deficits for the remainder of the current fiscal year, and in addition to other state cuts experienced by WellSpring since 2009. From 2009 to 2011, Illinois cut almost $114 million in general revenue funding for mental health and was fourth among all states for total cuts. This represents 31.7 percent of total Illinois mental health funding. Over the same period of time, emergency room admissions climbed by 20 percent and the number of people with mental illness living in jails and prisons increased by nearly 50 percent.
“The reality is that state-funded behavioral health services actually save taxpayers money by reducing emergency room use and by helping keep people out of the justice system,” Craig said. “Last year, WellSpring Resources spent an average of $1,300 per person served. Compare that to the average cost of one year in prison, which is estimated at $31,000. More than just saving dollars, though, the impact of these cuts on the lives of children and families will be unimaginable.”
Budget cuts at the state level would affect many of WellSpring Resources’ programs and services in Madison, Jersey, Calhoun and Greene counties. Proposed cuts include programs like Crisis Services. WellSpring offers a 24-hour crisis line to residents of Jersey, Calhoun and Madison counties. Cuts could mean individuals experiencing mental health crises and at risk of suicide may not have an adequate lifeline, and the responsibility to deal with these situations could fall on police officers and emergency room staff.
WellSpring Resources’ Supervised Residential Services and Supported Residential Services could be among the hardest-hit programs if the state budget proceeds as proposed. These programs provide housing and intensive supportive services for people with serious mental health conditions and those experiencing homelessness.
“People suffering from serious mental health conditions often need to develop skills so they can live independently, and that is what we do,” Craig said. “Group homes assist people in learning skills so they don’t have to live in a nursing home or psychiatric facility.”
WellSpring has four group homes to help people with serious mental health conditions regain their independence. Another program specializes in helping people who have been homeless get on their feet and rebuild their lives.
“These programs are crucial,” Craig said.
School-based services would also face drastic cuts. The agency has partnered with four school districts to provide on-site services. In the Alton, Jerseyville and Roxana school districts, WellSpring provides counseling and crisis intervention services to students at school or in their homes. Craig said approximately 250 children and families would be affected by the proposed cuts.
“Roxana is committed to addressing the well-being of the whole child,” said Laura Ballard, director of special education services for the Roxana School District. “Our partnership with WellSpring Resources allows the needs of our students and families to be met within our community.”
Other programs could also be affected by the cuts, including Open Door Services, and Psychiatric and Medical Services.
“To ensure that no one in Madison County goes without the mental health treatment or medications that they need, we ask that the state budget be shaped to ensure that behavioral health services remain as intact as possible,” Craig said.
For information, visit www.wellspringresources.co.