Employees across the Heartland breathe sigh of relief

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Many employees across the Heartland are breathing a sigh of relief. They won't be getting pink slips. State lawmakers reached a deal to keep places like the Chester Mental Health Center and the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro open. But the legislation comes with an expiration date.

By text message, that's how Julie Nolen heard she and her husband would keep their jobs at the IYC in Murphysboro.

"This was right after the funeral services for my dad," Nolen explained.

Nolen's emotional roller coaster started on a September day when she learned cancer spread to her father's brain and Governor Pat Quinn announced plans to shut several prisons and mental health facilities.

Nolen and others, like Greg Foreman, launched a fight to keep their jobs.

On this day, Foreman cleans up his kitchen and gets ready to go back to work on Thursday. A day he and others would have received pink slips.

"Putting people out of work is not the answer," Foreman said.  "It was just a big, big relief. We just went through Thanksgiving so I am thankful that they came to the conclusion."

Originally Quinn said the state didn't have the money to keep the IYC, Chester Mental Health and five other state facilities open. But State Representative Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) disagrees.

"It's a case where they wanted something else, the governor wanted to have his hands on more money, he got his hands on more money, it wasn't real he was going to shut these down. Now next year we're going to have to negate and put all these things in," Bost said.

However Nolen added, "It's not fair I mean we are real people and have our own real stresses and this was so unnecessary if that's all that it was about."

Still come the end of June Nolen, Foreman and others may find themselves again in the middle of another budget battle.

"It's defiantly not over and I hope that we put up enough of a battle that they don't look at us as hard as they did this time," Foreman said.

Experts say cuts at IYC and Chester Mental Health would mean a loss of $80 million  for all of southern Illinois. In total nearly 2,000 jobs statewide were on the chopping block.

Copyright 2011 KFVS. All rights reserved.