Quinn's cuts to social services means loss of care for many

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

CARONBALE, IL (KFVS) - The state budget signed by Illinois governor Pat Quinn cuts 1.4 billion dollars. Social services took one of the biggest blows and lost more than 312 million dollars.

However, Southern Illinois Regional Social Services Executive Director Karen Freitag says it was already tight before Quinn's cuts.  She adds mental health programs received the biggest slash.  Which she says will cost taxpayers more and some may lose their jobs.

Burgers are on the grill while red, white and blue covers the room at Community Integration Services in Carbondale.  It is an all-American celebration for our country's birthday.  However, counselor Tim Rittenhouse says for those in attendance, this is more than just a Fourth of July party.

"It's gives them a chance to learn social skills, to learn those skills in a safe environment, to where they can build the confidence, build the skills to interact with folks in the community," Rittenhouse said.

CIS is just one of the programs through Southern Illinois Regional Social Services or SIRSS. Colleen Choe is one of the thousand who receives SIRSS services.  Choe, who faces mental and physical disabilities, says she is learning how to live more independently thanks to SIRSS.

"I know I used to do this a lot, depend on people at SIRSS to help me do my grocery shopping," Choe said.  "They're actually (now) showing me how to do the bus routes."

Under Quinn's budget, Freitag says the organization lost more than $400,000.  But says mental health services without Medicaid received the largest cut.

"They will lose counseling services, case management, and a variety of support services they might need to live well in the community," Freitag said.

The reduction of social services is also expected to be felt at emergency rooms.  Freitag says with preventative programs cut, more people will end up in the ER help or even worse behind bars.

"They are going to end up in more expensive services and cost the state taxpayers more," Freitag added.

Back at the Fourth of July party, lunch is served and social lessons continue.  Choe says it is just another reason programs as this are needed for the mentally challenged.

"I think they need to put more money into this and the school programs instead of cutting the budget," Choe said.

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