Community leaders call for end to Illinois budget impasse

It’s been more than nine months since Illinois had a state budget.

Illinois lawmakers are back in Springfield again. One resolution soon to be heard by lawmakers calls for an immediate end to the budget impasse.

Without a budget, health services you rely on could soon see deep cuts.

The Jackson County Health Department joined with other area groups Monday to call on lawmakers to pass HR 922, a resolution which calls for passing a fiscal year budget for 2016. They say without a budget, big changes in your health services could be coming.

Signing form after form, checking box after box, the nurses at the Jackson County Health Department are constantly going. After years of cutting and trimming down staff, they’re down to just four full-time and four-part time nurses.

But nursing director Karen Brown says demand has only gone up.

"We have spread that work out over whoever is left, which makes it quite challenging," Brown said. 

Staff is spread thin, but so are resources. They normally get 12 percent of their funding from the state. Without it, they’re down $500,000.  Director Miriam Link-Mullison says the county has been helping to cover that but they can’t afford to much longer.

"Enough is enough, we must step forward and say we must have a budget," Link-Mullison said.

They say they need the state to step up, because they’ve already trimmed all the fat they can from all their county programs and services.

"It’s tight. We’re going to have make some changes, we’re going to eliminate some services and we’re in the process of working on making those choices," Link-Mullison said. She and other leaders are calling on lawmakers to pass a budget and release their funding immediately. She says without it, they won’t just be cutting services but losing their ability to keep an emergency alert system in place for the county. She says in a health emergency this is vital and necessary.

Brown says not knowing the future of their funding is testing staff and their patients.

"The most frustrating piece is the uncertainty of how long are we going to have to keep streamlining and minimizing,” Brown said. She says they need an end to the impasse now, so they can continue to keep Southern Illinois healthy.

Leaders at the Jackson County Health Department will meet with the Board of Health and the county commissioners over the next couple of weeks. Together they’ll determine how long they can keep operating without state money before making big cuts.

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