Mental health provider fighting through Illinois budget impasse

Nearly one year without state funding, folks with the Family Counseling Center in Illinois thought they’d have to close their doors come July 1.

Without the $700,000 the state owes the center for services in the last fiscal year, and with no promise of this year’s money, the mental health service provider is swallowing big cuts and changes to keep services going in the community.

Are lawmakers even listening? It’s a question Family Counseling Center Executive Director Sherrie Crabb asks herself with every layoff and program cut she’s made this past year..

"We’ve cut several programs. We’ve cut a homeless shelter. We’ve laid off 37 different staff. Some of us went without pay and volunteered our time," says Crabb. She says they’ve cut employee benefits and reduced hours for staff in an effort to continue serving Illinois’ southern seven counties.

Crabb says outpatient buildings sit empty, too expensive to stay open. Client resources are thinning, too. Family Counseling Center Family Resource Developer Marsha Hayes says it’s difficult just to help families dealing with mental health or other issues find the support they need.

"The resources just are not there. So when they call for help, it’s very difficult to find places to send them or for me to provide them with the food, clothing and things they’re really in need of," says Hayes.

Despite closing or moving six different buildings, the Family Counseling Center is still finding a way to stay open. Even if they’ve had to move and condense operations in to a former feed sales building.

"We’re still able to provide services to clients. We may look a little different. We may not be serving as many, and we may not employ as many, but the main mission of helping others help themselves is still going strong," Crabb says.

Staying open much longer without state funding will mean more closures and more layoffs. Crabb says right now, they’re not sure they can stay open past January. But, she says she isn’t losing hope that lawmakers will pass something so they can continue serving the community.

The Family Counseling Center will be joined by dozens of other human service providers and lawmakers from around southern Illinois next week to talk about how they plan to survive the Illinois budget impasse. The symposium will be held Tuesday, June 28, at John A Logan College in Carterville.

A bill that would provide stopgap funding for the Family Counseling Center and other human service agencies passed both the House and the Senate, but Gov. Bruce Rauner has says he doesn’t intend to sign it.

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