Cutting addiction programs short-sighted
Substance abuse providers predict dire consequences
The already difficult road to recovery for substance abusers is about to get tougher as service providers prepare to deal with massive state budget cuts, which will result in a loss of treatment for thousands of substance abusers beginning July 1.
Under the new budget, sometimes referred to as the “doomsday budget,” the state’s substance abuse and prevention programs face a $170 million loss, reports the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Association (IADDA). The cuts, says IADDA, will essentially eliminate the alcoholism and substance abuse budgets from community treatment providers, with an estimated 355,000 substance abusers no longer able to receive treatment. IADDA also maintains that prevention programs will be eliminated. “This budget will destroy Illinois’ addiction health care system,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of IADDA. “Little will remain.”
On June 15, service providers received letters from the Illinois Department of Human Services notifying them of the pending cuts. Gateway Foundation Springfield, which offers residential and outpatient treatment for adults and adolescents, stands to lose up to $1 million. Springfield’s Triangle Center, which provides residential, outpatient, detoxification, early intervention and DUI evaluation services, could lose as much as $2 million.
Currently the residential program at Gateway’s Springfield facility houses 106 beds — 82 for adolescent males between the ages of 12 and 17, and 24 for adults. Twenty of the facility’s adolescent beds are reserved for individuals receiving funding from the state’s Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse (DASA). The facility’s adolescent residential program is presently full. The adult residential program currently houses 21 substance abusers. All are funded by DASA.
Gateway Springfield also has a “partial hospitalization” or day treatment program, where patients receive intensive treatment at the facility during the day and in the evening, but go home to sleep at night. Three DASA-funded adolescents currently receive treatment via the day treatment program. In addition to the residential program, the facility’s outpatient program currently provides services for 43 adults and 11 adolescents. Twenty-nine of the adults receive services through DASA. There are 44 adults and 30 adolescents waiting to enter the outpatient program. “The loss,” says Gateway Foundation Springfield Community Director Keith Kuhn, “could mean that there is virtually no funding left for services in Springfield.”
Triangle Center’s loss, says CEO Steve Knox, could amount to half of its current operating funds. Knox added that service providers are currently facing two major dilemmas. First, if you add the pending state cuts to last year’s cuts, service providers will be operating well below 50 percent of what they need to provide adequate services, explains Knox. “Almost as vexing,” states Knox, “is that administrators do not know how to plan. It’s difficult to make good solid financial decisions when the future is totally uncertain. Do we reduce the budget 50 percent and roll it over 12 months? Or do we go on with the hope of partial restoration?”
While Knox would not give specifics as to how Triangle Center plans to deal with this year’s budget cuts, Kuhn said that Gateway is considering cuts to its adult residential and outpatient programs and reducing the youth residential program by at least seven beds. Also, Gateway will continue an initiative to develop private pay business, including patients who self pay and those who pay through private insurance.
As state legislators continue to grapple with the budget, Knox warns, “Unless the state does something to save community-based substance abuse programs, secondary issues will double, triple, and in some cases quadruple.” Kuhn and Knox predict that if substance abuse programs are slashed, already overcrowded jails and prisons will fill up; probation rolls will swell; emergency rooms will become overcrowded; more people will die as the result of drunk drivers, and homelessness, welfare, domestic violence and violence among youths will increase. “The entire state will suffer,” warns Kuhn. “Legislators need to recognize the benefits of service providers and the role they play in society,” says Knox.
IADDA reports that untreated addictions currently cost the state $3 billion a year. The association estimates that at least 10 people are affected by each person with an untreated addiction. IADDA is urging Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly to approve an income tax increase and to use the funds to restore the $170 million to the addiction health care system.