Illinois Social Service Agencies Scrape By, Wait For Answers

The offices of Rape, Advocacy, Counseling and Education Services in Urbana, which has reduced operation to four days a week due to the lack of a state budget.

The offices of Rape, Advocacy, Counseling and Education Services in Urbana (RACES), which has been reduced operating four days a week due to the lack of a state budget.

Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Many Illinois social service agencies say they’re having to take drastic measures in order to make do without state funds since last July.  A few in East Central Ilinois are just as worried about the people they serve as their employees.

Circle of Friends Adult Day Care in Champaign provides monitoring for those dealing with conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and others - who are just lonely. 

Director Kathy Rhoads calls it a "passion," and will do whatever it takes – including securing a personal loan to care for those people and pay her 13 staff members.  

She says if her facility does have to close, those they serve - and their families - will suffer.

"They might end up in a nursing home, under public aid, which is way more costly than daytime care they pay now," she said. "Or the other option is -  the person’s family quits work to stay home with that individual, they can’t be home by themselves, and there’s a taxpayer who’s not paying taxes.  So having us close, having other agencies close, it’s going to cost the state a lot more than working on a budget and getting things back on board.”

Marcie Sheridan, Director of the Vermilion County Rape Crisis Center, located in Tilton, says Illinois’ budget stalemate has forced her to cut one counselor position, and there’s more work than the current staff can handle.

“And this is not an issue where you want to go through something as traumatic as a sexual assault – and then call for help and be put on a waiting list, and not get that immediate help," she said.  "So that to us is a crisis issue as well.”

The stalemate may also keep the Crisis Center from fulfilling a legal requirement.  Illinois is among the states that follows Erin’s Law, which mandates that sexual assault prevention education is provided in schools.  Sheridan says the center is still providing the service for now, despite the fact that it isn’t being reimbursed by the state.  

The News-Gazette reported recently that hours and staff salaries have been reduced at Urbana-based Rape, Advocacy, Counseling, and Education Services, or RACES, and the agency will have to close by mid-April without state funding.  It's reportedly owed around $200,000 by the state.

Some agencies also have their share of questions about much longer they can keep up what services they do have.

Dale Morrissey, CEO of the Developmental Services Center in Champaign, says some agencies were still able secure state contracts for the current fiscal year, but questions what happens if there’s still no state budget by July.

“Do they still have a legitimate contract?" he said. "And so some people have been providing services on a good-faith document, but is that document once the fiscal year passes still a legal, and that’s some of the clarification that these organizations are seeking.”

Morrissey says one result of the impasse hitting his agency, is that some consumers served by DSC aren’t able to live in their own communities, because there isn’t enough money to adequately staff the homes.

Story source: WILL