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Illinois Budget Clock is Ticking, Worry Lines Deepen

August 5, 2008

Chicago, IL – Time is running out for an Illinois budget fix. Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., has until midnight tonight to call the Senate back into session to address cuts made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich in order to balance the state budget. The effect of one cut is to slash $110 million from efforts to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

That slash could be catastrophic, warns Kathy Dwyer, who works with people battling addiction as director of behavioral health services with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois.

The timing couldn't be worse, Dwyer says, because of the sour economy and the so-called "violent crime crisis" in the Chicago area.

"It's not at all what we need at this particular point in time. I hope they will reconvene and make a difference here."

Dwyer says the budget cuts really are an issue of life or death for some people in Illinois, because they'll be turned away from treatment for addiction.

"Addiction is a chronic, progressive, terminal illness. If people don't get help, the long-range consequence is that they die. To me, these cuts are incredible."

Treating people with addictions benefits everyone, Dwyer explains. University of Chicago research has found that for every dollar spent on substance abuse treatment, taxpayers save $7 down the road in costs related to prisons, health care, unemployment and homelessness.

The Illinois House already has voted to override some of the governor's cuts. Because he red-lined $55 million in state money for combatting drug and alcohol addition, the state would lose another $55 million in federal matching funds, for a total loss of $110 million.


Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - IL