Concerned Woman

The toll of a bud­get impasse

What’s the problem?

It’s been on the news, in the papers, and maybe men­tioned in a pass­ing con­ver­sa­tion but does Illi­nois’ bud­get impasse real­ly have an affect on you? In short, absolute­ly. With this dead­lock eat­ing away at men­tal health ser­vices, these prob­lems don’t just dis­ap­pear; these prob­lems seep into oth­er infra­struc­tures and con­sume valu­able resources.

So let’s break it down into more palat­able parts.

  • For two years, Illi­nois has been with­out a bud­get due to dif­fer­ences from Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Bruce Rauner and leg­isla­tive Democrats
  • The state’s unfund­ed pen­sion lia­bil­i­ty has grown to $203 billion
    • Pen­sion lia­bil­i­ty-the dif­fer­ence between the total amount due to retirees and the actu­al amount of mon­ey the com­pa­ny has on hand to make those payments.
  • The state debt increas­es on aver­age $500,000 per hour
  • The lack of bud­get affects edu­ca­tion, health­care, pris­ons, men­tal health, state employ­ees, state parks, domes­tic vio­lence vic­tims, child­care, seniors, hous­ing, social ser­vices, muse­ums, and many more areas

How does this affect men­tal health and seniors services?

Ser­vice Centers

In rank­ing states with the high­est men­tal health bud­get cuts, Illi­nois came in third at $113.7 mil­lion behind New York and Cal­i­for­nia (20092012). It has been proven that with effec­tive ser­vices and sup­port, peo­ple liv­ing with major men­tal ill­ness can and do achieve recov­ery,” says a report by the Nation­al Alliance on Men­tal Ill­ness (NAMI). How­ev­er, when ser­vices are cut and indi­vid­u­als with men­tal ill­ness are left untreat­ed, peo­ple end up in emer­gency rooms, extend­ed stays in hos­pi­tals, home­less, in jail, or dead. With a pop­u­la­tion of 12.88 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in Illi­nois, it’s esti­mat­ed by NAMI Chica­go that 7.5 mil­lion adults are liv­ing with a vary­ing degree of men­tal ill­ness, 58% of Illi­nois’ pop­u­la­tion. With a halt to fund­ing, psy­chol­o­gists and psy­chi­a­trists are less will­ing to see patients, which means these peo­ple aren’t get­ting the care they need. For those with severe men­tal ill­ness, their new treat­ment facil­i­ty is prison.

Crim­i­nal Jus­tice System

With men­tal health facil­i­ties at their capac­i­ty with clients, the job of respond­ing to men­tal ill­ness relat­ed crises falls on local police offi­cers. How­ev­er, spe­cial train­ing is required for offi­cers who respond to men­tal ill­ness calls, which requires fund­ing. For exam­ple, the Orland Park Police Depart­ment assem­bled a cri­sis inter­ven­tion team (CIT) that serves as an auto­mat­ic response sys­tem for calls relat­ed to men­tal ill­ness, it pro­vides resources for fam­i­lies, keeps police offi­cers safer and decreas­es the num­ber of emer­gency calls for ser­vice.” (The Region­al News) The cost of train­ing a class of 25 comes to about $20,000. With the state bud­get on hold, those train­ing have come to a halt. It’s clear that because men­tal health facil­i­ties aren’t get­ting fund­ing and police offi­cers aren’t get­ting trained in treat­ing the men­tal­ly ill that thou­sands of indi­vid­u­als are being cycled into the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem with­out prop­er care.


One of the most mul­ti-faceted pieces affect­ed by the bud­get cri­sis, fund­ing for edu­ca­tion is prov­ing unre­li­able. Not only are stu­dents not receiv­ing schol­ar­ship and grant mon­ey, but some insti­tu­tions are wor­ried that they might not even be able to pay employ­ees come fall. The most affect­ed are stu­dents com­ing from low-income fam­i­lies due to their heavy reliance on schol­ar­ships and grants. Col­leges such as Chica­go State Uni­ver­si­ty and North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty who rely heav­i­ly on gov­ern­ment fund­ing are in dan­ger of shut­ting down. The men­tal toll of stu­dents los­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty of high­er edu­ca­tion, pro­fes­sors and staff los­ing their jobs and the lack of edu­ca­tion on issues about men­tal ill­ness is dev­as­tat­ing. In addi­tion, few­er peo­ple giv­en access to high­er edu­ca­tion means less psy­chol­o­gists, psy­chi­a­trists, ther­a­pists and oth­er health care providers.

With schools shuf­fling mon­ey around try­ing to stay afloat, men­tal health edu­ca­tion gets lost. This means less peo­ple includ­ing stu­dents, teach­ers, and pro­fes­sors being edu­cat­ed on men­tal ill­ness, sen­si­tiv­i­ty and a prop­er way to address and treat it. A lack of edu­ca­tion leads to par­ents not address­ing their children’s ill­ness, teenagers ashamed of some­thing they can’t con­trol, and adults who aren’t giv­en the resources to prop­er­ly heal; all of which have cat­a­stroph­ic results.

How does this affect you?

1 in 5 Amer­i­cans suf­fer from men­tal ill­ness. To read more sta­tis­tics go here. So think of 5 fam­i­ly mem­bers or friends and imag­ine if one of them were deal­ing with depres­sion or anx­i­ety or sub­stance abuse or schiz­o­phre­nia. Imag­ine if they couldn’t get the help they need­ed because they weren’t accept­ed into a cer­tain pro­gram or their Med­ic­aid wouldn’t cov­er a psy­chi­a­trist for them and you didn’t know how to take care of them. This is the real­i­ty for mil­lions of peo­ple due to the state putting a hold on a bud­get. Whether you’re aware of it or not, some­one near you is strug­gling with men­tal ill­ness in some degree or another.

How can you help?

Edu­cate, edu­cate, educate

One of the most impor­tant things you can do is edu­cate your­self on the state of Illi­nois’ bud­get cri­sis, men­tal ill­ness­es and treat­ments avail­able near you. The more you know the more you can help your­self and others.

Write to your legislators

Go here and stress the impor­tance of end­ing the bud­get impasse.


Share any infor­ma­tion and/​or news you find with col­leagues, cowork­ers, fam­i­ly and friends via social media, email and word of mouth.


Men­tal health ser­vice cen­ters, like Ken­neth Young Cen­ter, depend on sup­port­ers like you to con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing invalu­able ser­vices to those in need. Any dona­tion whether it’s mon­ey, cloth­ing, ser­vices or time only helps cen­ters like us main­tain care.

You can donate here. For vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties go here.

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