Mental health provider in Illinois sees massive cuts, closures

Sweeping cuts are taking effect at behavioral health care provider Centerstone in Illinois, and it’s all because of the state’s budget impasse.

Without the $6.2 million the state owes it, the agency is reducing services, laying off dozens of employees and cutting popular programs. But leaders say what they’re most concerned about is the lives at risk because of the cuts.

The doors at Carterville’s Centerstone Crisis Center will soon close for good. The center and other programs will shut down June 30. Thirty-nine employees will be laid off, but CEO John Markley says he’s most worried about the 700 clients they can no longer serve.

"It’s very, very sad. These are not services that you can say, ‘Oh well, I’ll just go somewhere else and get that’," Markley said.

Brian Murrah, a deputy with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, says officers are already feeling the effects of the cuts. The sheriff’s department typically turns to the crisis center for at-risk youth or runaways in need of immediate help. Without it, there’s no immediate backup plan.

"We’ve already, just within a day or two of them making the announcement, I know there’s been at least one instance where we needed their service," Murrah said. 

Deputies used to be able to bring kids in any time of the day to the Crisis Center in Carterville. But now, aside from calling DCFS and waiting for hours or just taking them to a hospital, there’s no place to take those at-risk kids.

As Centerstone reduces space at halfway houses and closes youth homeless centers and other agencies, Markley says people will end up in jails hospitals or even dead if people can’t go to Centerstone facilities. 

"People are going to be hurt by not having these services," Markley said.

He says the impasse is already hurting communities, and the longer it lasts, the bigger the ripple effect communities will see. He says he’s hoping funding for the programs comes soon so Centerstone can start to heal.

A stopgap measure that would give partial funding to Centerstone and other human service agencies around Illinois was passed by both the state House and Senate, but Governor Bruce Rauner has said he doesn’t plan to sign the measure. He’s instead pushing for a full budget deal.

Markley recently released this statement: 

For the last 11 months, Centerstone has, in good faith, offered services we were contracted to provide by the state of Illinois, but because our state officials have not passed a budget, we have not been paid for these services.  Today, our state owes Centerstone more than $6 million. 

We, along with other organizations, have warned public officials for months that we could not sustain the losses the state of Illinois was imposing on us, but our concerns have been ignored. 

With no end to this state contract crisis in sight, the viability of our entire organization is being threatened. So, after careful review of the situation, we are enacting difficult measures to protect Centerstone, our 600 employees across the state and the 16,000 people of all ages who depend on us.

In the coming fiscal year, we will eliminate several state contracts because of the risk involved.  These contracts represent vital services in our communities, but we cannot sustain them in such uncertain times. This means, as of June 30, 2016, the following services will close:

  • Comprehensive Community Based Youth services (CCBYS) in Franklin, Jackson, Perry and Williamson Counties;
  • Crisis Stabilization services at the Centerstone Crisis Center in Williamson County, a service which has saved our state more than $4 million in healthcare costs
  • DMH Juvenile Justice services in Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson and Williamson Counties;
  • Homeless Youth services in Franklin, Jackson, Perry and Williamson Counties;
  • Psychiatric Medication funds used in Calhoun, Franklin, Jackson, Jersey, Madison, and Williamson Counties;
  • Supported Residential services (one group home) in Alton; and
  • Teen Pregnancy Prevention services in Franklin County.

Additionally, Halfway House beds in Marion will be reduced.

A total of 700 clients and 39 staff members will be affected by these changes. The loss of our colleagues and services is painful, but our state has offered us little choice. 

It is our sincere hope that our Governor and legislature finally do the right thing and act in the best interests of all of their constituents by ending this state budget crisis. 

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