Champaign Social Service Groups Issue Plea To Rauner

June 29, 2015
Kristina Rath, whose 11-year old son is autistic, gets emotional when addressing a group at Champaign's Developmental Services Center Monday.

Kristina Rath, whose 11-year old son is autistic, gets emotional when addressing a group at Champaign's Developmental Services Center Monday.

(Masaki Sugimoto/WILL)

Area families dealing with mental illness are asking Governor Bruce Rauner not to cut funding for treatment in the next fiscal year. The governor and lawmakers have until Wednesday to sign off on a new budget.

Debra Medlyn was among some 70 people who attended a news conference at the Developmental Services Center Champaign on Monday hosted by the area’s two Democratic state lawmakers, Carol Ammons of Urbana and Scott Bennett of Champaign.

Medlyn's son has schizophrenia, and said even with current funding levels, it’s difficult to find proper care. She said that means those with schizophrenia often require constant support from a parent, and many wind up in jail.

"You can’t keep a job if you’re trying to watch somebody who is having psychosis," she said.  "You can’t keep a job with a child that has bipolar who is spiraling out of control.  And you feel responsible, but where do you go if there’s no services?”

Kristina Rath's 11-year old son has autism, and has long relied on The Autism Program of Illinois, or TAP.   Proposed cuts include eliminating TAP's entire $4.3 million in funding.

"It will destroy access to critically needed, vital services to our most vulnerable citizens, our children," she said.  "We call on lawmakers to work together to pass a responsible budget that preserves critically needed vital human services."

Jill Creighton, a breast cancer survivor, utilizes the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer program, which provides free treatment to qualifying patients.  She said Gov. Rauner wants to cut funding for the program by more than 70-percent.

"Uninsured Americans like me are less likely to get screened for cancer, more likely to be diagosed at a later stage of the disease, and less likely to survive," she said.

The legislators Monday also heard from people who rely on LIHEAP (Illinois Low Income Energy Assistance Program), and current and former employees of PACE, Champaign's Center for Independent Living, which is operated by persons with disabilities.

Pictured: Champaign Democratic Senator Scott Bennett speaks Monday at the Developmental Services Center in Champaign (Masaki Sugimoto/WILL)

Rep. Ammons says there’s been no talk yet of overriding Rauner’s recent veto of most of the budget bills sent to him.  She wants to maintain funding for mental health and low-income energy assistance and step away from Rauner's 'turnaround agenda' of business reforms.

"I think we need to step away from those non-budgetary issues, and really just deal with this budget, and the impact on the state," she said.  "What is it going to cost for our families that will lose Medicaid services, that will lose child care resources, (and the) autism program?"

Senator Bennett said he was encouraged when the governor signed a budget bill for public school funding last week, but said his veto of the rest of the budget approved by Democrats ‘drew a line in the sand’.  That budget will need additional state revenue to be balanced. Bennett says there are several options to consider.       

“It doesn’t just mean income tax," he said.  "The governor’s talked about service tax, we could do a gaming bill, we could talk about closing corporate loopholes, there are many things we can do to find some additional revenue to pay for the programs that we’ve heard today are so vital to our community.”

The General Assembly will be back in Springfield Tuesday and Wednesday.

Story source: WILL