Human service leaders gather to discuss budget cuts

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WOODSTOCK – McHenry County leaders in human services met Thursday to urge fellow organizations to advocate for more funding heading into the May 31 budget deadline.

Leaders in housing, behavior, senior, and developmental services—among others—gathered at the Golden Eagle Community Bank in Woodstock to discuss funding issues heading into the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Judith Gethner, executive director of Illinois Partners for Human Service, led the meeting and cautioned organizations against accepting more cuts to already depleted programs.

“The government, those that fund us, would really like to pit us against each other in the funding cycle that occurs between now and May 31,” she said. “The way to make their job easier is for each of [the human service organizations] to make their own pitch about why to protect their area of service.”

Gethner said that cutting from human services is not like cutting from roads or parks. Cuts to one area will negatively affect numerous other areas of service, and ultimately impact their clients.

She cited an example of when someone's home is foreclosed on, that person would need to take advantage of supportive housing services. That person would also likely need job services and child care services. The services are interrelated and cuts impact the entire system, she said.

“In that example is the idea that if you cut job training, I won't be able to keep my supportive housing,” she said. “It's the notion that we're a fabric. We're multiple agencies that keep people together. It's a reminder that how we budget in human services is very different than how we budget in roads, highways, parks and recreation.”

The beginning of cuts to Illinois human services began in 2009, with some services seeing drastic cuts. Mental health services have been cut 30 percent, according to Gethner.

John Buckley, executive director of Adult and Child therapy Services in Woodstock, was at Thursday's meeting and said it was important to hear from other service leaders about how to make improvements and better advocate for more funding.

“Everything is in flux,” he said. “There's no clear direction. There's no clear answers. It's an unstable system, and it's only looking like it's going to get worse.”

As the general assembly battles budget concerns and a looming pension crisis, Gethner believes further cuts to service are likely to come.

“I'm not confident at all,” she said regarding a stop to cuts. “Every indicator I get from all of the key legislators is that we are going to have cuts to our budget, which is going to translate to cuts to the program … there's not one glimmer of hope that there's not going to be cuts.”

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