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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Illinois Budget Crisis leave Burial Services for Poor and Disabled in Question

ANNA, IL.  — Funeral home director Phil Hileman said he’s absorbed thousands of dollars in expenses to provide a proper funeral and burial for people in Anna and surrounding communities since the state hasn’t provided any reimbursements for indigent funerals since July 1, 2015.

article by MOLLY PARKER  for The Southern  Illinoisan |May 3, 2016Many of these people are developmentally disabled and live in community group homes, he said, as there are a number of these Community Integrated Living Arrangement, or CILA homes, in Union County. There are cases where these individuals do not have any family members still living, or who are part of their lives and willing to pay for funeral costs.

Hileman, who is the owner of Rendleman & Hileman Funeral Homes in Anna, Jonesboro, Cobden and Alto Pass, hasn’t turned anyone away, but he said he can’t continue to fund indigent funerals indefinitely. In some cases, he’s also had to advocate for cremation instead of a burial because the former is less costly.

“They have nothing — absolutely nothing,” Hileman said of some of the indigent clients he serves. “The state has taken care of them their entire lives. Many were transferred out of state institutions years ago. We’re challenged when that happens.”

There are a number of community group homes in Union County because of the proximity to Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center.

Hileman said it was a challenge even when the state was providing reimbursements, but what was provided helped offset some of the costs, and various entities worked together to patch together the rest to make sure that people were given the dignity of funeral and burial services.

The state was paying $1,103 for funeral costs, and an additional $552 to secure a cemetery space, and for opening and closing at the grounds, he said. Even on the low end, funerals and cemetery costs can range from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on a person’s wishes. While cremation is less expensive, many people still wish for their remains to be buried at a cemetery below a headstone, he said, allowing a place for the grieving to visit.

Hileman said he performs services for about 30 people annually without any means to pay. Even if someone doesn’t have blood relatives living or involved in their lives, it doesn’t mean they don’t have family who want to pay their final respects, he said.

He said that other residents from the group home and staff attend these funerals — and those people have become their family.

“I always said we’re going to do that, and we’re going to do it as if that person was any other family that calls on us because they deserve that dignity and that right,” Hileman said, adding, “But by the grace of God that’s me.”

And while most were living in group homes, Hileman said there are also some families living in the community whose loved one did not have any insurance coverage for services and burial, and they are without the ability to pay. In cases involving the death of a child, Hileman said he provides those services regardless of one's ability to pay — no questions asked.

According to Marianne Manko, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, the agency that oversees the indigent funeral program, the state provided reimbursements for 8,649 funeral services in fiscal year 2014, and 5,652 in fiscal year 2015.

Mary Carey, executive director of the Illinois Funeral Directors Association, said the organization that represents funeral home directors statewide continues to lobby lawmakers to include funding for the program in fiscal year 2017.

“I think everyone deserves a dignified funeral and the funeral homes are having a hard time coming up with that for people. Especially when there’s so many of them,” she said.

But Carey also said her organization has told funeral home directors that the reimbursements into future years, even once a budget is put in place, is not a sure thing.

Funding for the program has been unstable for some time, she said. It was dropped previously for a period of time under former Gov. Pat Quinn, she said, and then reinstated, only to be dropped again by Gov. Bruce Rauner in early 2015. The program was reinstated by Rauner with the restoration of $26 million in social service cuts during the FY2015 budget, but there have been no payouts since the 2016 fiscal year began July 1 without a state budget. The program was not included in the FY2017 budget proposed by Rauner, though no decisions have been finalized.

May marks the beginning of the 11th month the state has been without a budget.
 # TY to all that shared this article, Illinois citizens are paying the price for a non functional state government. 

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