Clinics cautious as substance abuse treatment money restored

Millions of dollars for substance abuse centers has been restored to the state budget, but Chicago clinic officials today say they aren't making decisions about what to do because they are not sure how much they are getting.

The money is given in a lump sum to the Illinois Department of Human Services. DHS will then decide who gets how much, and it may not be equal to what was cut, says Marcy Darin, assistant director of Development at Community Counseling Centers of Chicago.

"We're still in the dark as to when we will get the money and just how much it will be," says Darin.

Governor Rod Blagojevich signed a bill restoring the funding, but with the state's backlog of unpaid bills, it's unclear when the money will come or if they will receive the full amount.

The cuts were made back in July, and treatment providers, now five months into their fiscal year, don't know if the state will give them the total amount cut or just the portion of the money to fund services for the rest of the year.

Haymarket Center, a substance abuse treatment program on the city's near West side, had $4 million dollars cut, 20 percent of its total budget. Leo Miller, vice president of Clinical Support Services for Haymarket, says they will restart services slowly, first by opening detox beds and hiring back a third of the staff.

"Our dilemma is: Do we staff up like we're going to have the whole amount or not?" Miller says, "We can't just hire everybody back, and then, two months later, just fire everybody again."

Even if Haymarket does get all its funding back, Miller says it is going to be hard season. He says funding cuts caused between eight and ten clinics around the state to shut down, and clinics like Haymarket are going to have to pick up the slack.

"Alcohol and drug abuse is a huge problem in our society, and it's not going to get better because the economy is sour," Miller says.

The Women's Treatment Center is also cautiously optimistic. The program on the near West side allows mothers to remain with their children while they go through treatment for addiction.

"We were very pleased to hear about it. But as of right now, nothing's changed," says Anita Jenke, development director for the Center. "We don't know how much we will get back. It's just too early."

Jenke says she was informed by the Illinois Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse that new contracts would be ready within two weeks. No one at the department could be reached for comment.

Even with the funds being restored, many centers will still struggle to keep their doors open, says Marvin Lindsey, a substance abuse advocate at Community Behavioral Healthcare of Illinois.

He says the state owes many treatment centers a lot of money. Some, he says, haven't been paid for services since July.

"What's happening now is that programs are really struggling because of cash flow," says Lindsey.

He says many clinics have had to take out loans to make payroll and keep their doors open.

"People are taking out their second and third loans from banks," Lindsey says. "The state does not pay back the interest on the loans. We're talking millions of dollars in interest."

Lindsey says his office is working with the Governor's office of Management and Budget to get the money into providers hands. He says they haven't received word yet of when that will be.

The governor signed Senate Bill 1103 on Nov. 20. The bill restored $175.9 million in funding for addiction services, Department of Child and Family Services, and RTA reduced fare subsidies.


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