On June 30th, the Tinley Park Mental Health Center shut its doors for good. The facility, which provided inpatient care to the mentally ill, closed down as part of a series of state budget cuts that are hitting services for the mentally ill.
What about the users of its services? News reports say they will be sent to other local area facilities, most likely community-care based ones, or private hospitals.
The cuts are just the tip of the iceberg. But a bill passed through the Illinois legislature hopes to set up safeguards for the mentally ill displaced by budget cuts from state-run facilities.
HB 5586 aims to ensure that whenever the state enters into a contract with another facility to provide mental health services, all rights, procedures and requirements under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code are met.
This includes the right to challenge denied admission, the right to challenge a discharge and the right to writing materials, among others. The legislation is awaiting a signature from Gov. Quinn.
His office did not respond to requests for comment on the legislation.
Making sure that budget cuts don't keep mentally ill individuals from having adequate care is a "huge concern," said Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate. "I wanted to ensure that individuals who need mental health care have the ability to know they can go to those alternate facilities and still get the proper care."
Gov. Quinn's planned move towards community-based care, from institutionalization, is expected to save $19.8 million a year. According to the Chicago Tribune, there could be three more facilities closed, displacing about 600 people.
Illinois' mental health cuts have been the third toughest in the country. Between 2009 and 2011, the state sliced $113.7 million from mental health services for children and adults, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 2011 report "State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis."
Suzanne M. Andriukaitis, executive director of NAMI of Chicago, said that it was especially difficult finding inpatient beds outside of state facilities on the South and West sides.
"Not that many private hospitals in that neck of the woods have inpatient psychiatry beds to start with," said Andriukaitis.
She said tracking suicides and the number of mentally ill arrests would give an indication of what happened to individuals without ready access to psychiatric services.
Money for services will now "follow the person"--costing an average of $45,000-$84,000 a year instead of the $150,000-$210,000 under state-run institutionalization.
But Andriukaitis notes that the state's funding for contracting with outside mental health facilities is also shrinking as state-run centers close. "They are shrinking the dollars that the state is paying to the outside agencies," she said.
Illinois was one of eleven states that reduced the number of individuals they served between 2007 and 2009, both in community service and inpatient settings, according to the NAMI report.
78th District state Rep. Camille Lilly, a cosponsor of the legislation in the House, said she recognizes this larger obstacle to quality care.
"Unfortunately these cuts are devastating," said Lilly. "We want to make sure that we are not balancing the budget on the backs of our seniors and our poor. It's important people are able to find access to services."
She hopes the creation of an ambassador service--an individual in each state agency tasked with helping users access contracted services--in the next couple of months will help minimize individuals going without care.
Lilly expects the program to be piloted in the Department of Human Services, and rolled out at the end of the veto session in November.
Photo credit: redalbano
Tags: admission, Andriukaitis, Camille Lilly, contract, discharge, facility, Gov. Pat Quinn, HB5586, Kimberly Lightford, local, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, mentally ill, National Assocation on Mental Illness, Senate, state budget cuts, State Mental Health Cuts, TInley Park Mental Health Center