as appeared in The Herald News - Letter to the Editor | April 18, 2015
The fiscal year 2016 state budget introduced by Gov. Bruce Rauner fails to fully fund services for people with disabilities across Illinois. His proposed cuts in some programs, coupled with already-inadequate reimbursement rates for services, have been described as cost-cutting measures.
However, when one considers the long-term savings of community-based care when compared to costlier alternatives, social service providers are a wise investment of state resources. They also offer an improved quality of life for our citizens most in need.
Illinois has a long, complicated history when it comes to services for people with disabilities. Even during good economic times it has been difficult to secure necessary resources, so children and adults with developmental disabilities and mental health needs can receive services in their own communities. It has been eight years since providers have received a funding increase, which has compounded the financial strain on community-based programs and services. Furthermore, there have been many cuts over that eight-year span.
Next year’s proposed budget reduces funding for developmental disability and mental health services by $157.6 million. Without some changes to the FY 2016 state budget, we will be taking two steps back next year.
At this critical juncture, we urge the governor and members of the General Assembly to carefully consider the ramifications of next year’s budget. There is potential for real harm awaiting some of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents if the state does not adequately fund services for developmental disabilities, behavioral health needs and early childhood intervention. The future of services for people with disabilities in this state is at stake, and we must do the right thing.