Saturday, April 9, 2011

A student's letter to the governor on DHS cuts

I thought this was a reasonable letter to the governor by one of my students.  

Dear governor Quinn,
                  I am writing to you today in regards of your proposed budget cuts to the Department of Human Services.  This includes the substance abuse and treatment facilities.  This cut would send almost 80% of individuals that are in substance abuse programs now out on the street.  Also it would eliminate many jobs and then as an effect, hurt many hard working families.  Then you stated how you intend to give a 10% increase to the department of corrections in return.  This to me makes little or no sense at all.  There is actual proof that the recidivism rate is lower for individuals who go to treatment than those who go to the prison system.  Yes, there is treatment in prisons but very little bed space, and lack of counselors makes it difficult to really make it effective.  Also the price to house an inmate yearlong in prison is almost 27,000 dollars!  It cost between 5,000 and 10,000 to send someone to treatment.  Addiction is a disease and you have to treat the individual, not punish him.  In Sangamon County where I am from we just started a drug court system, and cutting the Department of Human Services—specifically the drug and alcohol programs—would really hurt the drug court.  These drug courts help individuals start a new life with intense probation, mandatory drug testing, and specific guidelines like getting a job or taking classes to improve the person’s education.  This is also proven to work better than prison, if you look at the recidivism rates from the Department of Justice.  One other issue of cutting this part of the budget is that this means the state would stop funding non-Medicaid addiction treatment and prevention.  This announcement by your office has already started many treatment programs to stop taking in clients from the courts or the streets.  This then has left many clients stuck or out of a place to seek help.  To me this is just wrong.
                  I am mainly asking you to support HB-106, which is a resolution signed by nearly two dozen representatives, that opposes the funding cuts to non-Medicaid addiction treatment and prevention.  Stop the cuts to this part of the budget and look at the consequences if you go through with these cuts.  Almost 5,000 people will lose their jobs, over 50,000 clients will be asked to leave the facilities in which they are currently in, and over 229,000 youth will lose prevention services.  Also 80% of clients are not eligible for Medicaid funding for their treatment, causing many people that are seeking help with their addiction to not receive it.  This proposed budget cut to these services may be life or death for many individuals and is just not right to do or ethical. Please stop and really take a look at what this will do.
                  I understand that with the current Democratic leadership in the House and stiff Republican opposition it would be difficult for you to raise revenue through, for example, broadening the sales tax. Thus, you do need to make cuts. The Department of Human Services gets about 14% of the General Revenue Fund, and it would be fair if the cuts to that department were close to 14%, not the 50% or more cuts you have proposed to substance abuse treatment and prevention. For ethical, practical, and long-term financial reasons it makes more sense to maintain substance abuse and prevention funding and make cuts elsewhere, almost anywhere else. 

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