Wednesday, April 14, 2010

connecting the dots

This is the story of fatal domestic violence: Frantic call after 4 found dead: 'He killed everyone' - Chicago Breaking News.
Though the suspect in this story had a record based in Wisconsin his story is not necessarily unique to it.

This story is also one of our state's weakening social safety net.

In March, a FY11 Department of Human Services budget briefing laid out these stark realities:
Mental health community services would be reduced by $90 million
Mental health providers would be warned to provide only 'crisis' care
All non-Medicaid spending would be eliminated - meaning that acute or chronic care would be unfunded.

Because of these draconian cuts, according to an agency official, the mental healthcare system in Illinois would be set back 30 years. Imagine that.

It's a very basic example of how bad things trickle down:
State budgets get slashed due to billion dollar deficits ->
Public Safety budgets get reduced ->
Human/Social/Mental health services get slashed ->
State programs for the treatment of incarcerated mentally ill adults are defunded ->
Mentally ill prisoners are released to free up space ->
Transitional/supportive housing and care for mentally ill ex-prisoner is eliminated ->
Mentally ill ex-prisoner goes untreated (and unhoused) ->
Mentally ill ex-prisoner re-offends, a result of their untreated mental illness as well as their homelessness ->
Mentally ill ex-prisoner re-enters criminal justice system ->
Criminal justice system catches and releases them again, because there is no money for guards, prisons or treatment.

And so on.

We could play the same game with rehabilitation services, alcohol and drug abuse services, or even childcare. Oh, not to say that all those who receive those services end up in the criminal justice system, but that insufficient funding for each of these areas creates a series of unintended consequences for communities which are ill-equipped to deal with them in the first place.

The community organizations who do this work do it precisely because the state can't.

And now, because of the indefensible lagging and delay of most (not all) of our elected officials, the state won't.

In mental health alone, over 3000 jobs will be lost in Illinois.
Anywhere between 23-87 mental health organizations will close (depending on their niche population.)
4000 adults in residential care will be impacted.
70,000 people (including 4200 children) will no longer have access to mental health care.

So that's the mental health 'dot.'
In addition to the education 'dot.'
And the public safety 'dot.'
There are a lot more dots if you really want to see them.
How many other dots need to be connected before our elected officials get off their complacent asses shrug off their complacency and do what they need to do?

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