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Illinois Politics

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz Calls on Illinois Senate to Fix $30 Million “Mistake” to Save Mental Health Care for 20,000 Illinois Residents

(Chicago, IL) — June 21, 2011. State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) today called on the Illinois Senate to approve legislation this week that fixes a clerical “mistake” made in the budget bill sent to Governor Pat Quinn that unintentionally reduced community mental health care funding by $30 million.

“I am pleading with the Democratic and Republican members of the Illinois Senate to approve the legislation, which won overwhelming bi-partisan support in the House, to keep mental health care services intact for thousands of residents,” said Feigenholtz.

The chief of the top Illinois mental health advocate group said without Senate action on Feigenholtz’s bill nearly 20,000 people would lose care.

“A $30 million ‘mistake’ means that nearly low-income 20,000 children, mothers and men will lose community mental health care unless the Illinois Senate acts on Wednesday,” said Community Behavioral Healthcare Association CEO Frank Anselmo said.

When the Illinois House a few weeks ago approved its version of the Illinois fiscal year 2012 budget, House Bill 3717, the legislation inadvertently slated funding for mental health care grants at $114.2 million instead of $143.6 million or 98.6% of the current year’s funding.

Feigenholtz, Chair of the House Human Services Committee, the panel that originally approved the mental health budget, discovered the error a few days before the legislature’s May 31 adjournment and acted swiftly to win overwhelming, bi-partisan approval, 109-7, for a legislative rescue, Senate Bill 2407 (House Amendment #2), to restore the money.

The measure, which is being sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), fell victim to last minute budget maneuvering over capital construction funding and additional human services budget increases.

For the Chicago-based C4, a community mental health agency located on the city’s north side, the failure of the Illinois Senate to act would likely eliminate care for 3,100 neighborhood residents, says the agency’s CEO.

“Because of the array of services C4 offers, we would lose almost $3.25 million from our budget,” said C4′s Tony Kopera. “It costs about $1,000 per year for C4 to serve children and adults with mental illness. The simple math is that about 3,100 people would be denied care on Chicago’s north side.”

Because all bills require a 3/5th vote in each chamber after May 31, all 35 Democratic senators and at least one GOP senator would need to vote for the bill.

The Senate begins its session at noon on Wednesday.

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.

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