Centerstone sues Illinois, fights to keep services going

Funding for treatment and services could make the difference between life and death, according to some of the people getting help from a nonprofit behavioral health provider in the Local 6 area. 

Centerstone has multiple locations in southern Illinois, as well as in Tennessee, Indiana and Florida. Illinois owes the behavioral health giant $3 million in unpaid services since the budget impasse began July 1, 2015. Serving 16,000 people in southern Illinois every year, the agency is joining a lawsuit against the state to get the funding needed to keep services going.

For the past few weeks, Cameron Brown’s been living at Centerstone, getting counseling and care for substance abuse. He says it feels easier to get drugs than to get treatment.

"I’ve been self-medicating for a long time because of no access to proper treatment or proper care," Brown said.

He says this is one of the few places still running without the promised state funding. If they go next, he says he worries what will happen to himself and the countless others dealing with addiction.

"Oh, it scares me to death. Really, I mean it’s like, this is my life we’re talking about. And my future," Brown said.

Centerstone CEO John Markley says the state owes the company $3 million in unpaid services. He says Illinois is still holding Centerstone accountable to services and standards, and the nonprofit is keeping up, but now the state isn’t holding up its side of the contract. He says Centerstone has cut programs like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and it has even closed facilities trying to save money. He says cutting any deeper into programs could put people’s lives at risk.

"The things that we are looking to cut are things where it’s like: Do I cut my right arm off or my left? Which do I need more?" Markley said.

Centerstone is one of 65 agencies suing the state. Substance Abuse Clinician Christy VanZant says Centerstone is too vital to the community to be cut. Without it, she says a number of other problems will pop up.

"Without places like this, you know, they don’t have that support, structure and resources," VanZant said.

"People just don’t have access to recover, and the community really needs this," Brown said.

Without it, Brown says people like him pay the price.

Along with substance abuse treatment, Centerstone is one of the area’s largest mental health, at risk youth and developmental disability service providers. For more information on Centerstone and their services, click here

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