Illinois a Public Addictions Care Basket Case, A Funding Crisis

Addiction Treatment Industry Newswire
04/17/2014 -ATIN – The Illinois legislature has formed a committee. It has 39 members, some of whom have been making the rounds in the state taking testimony and hearing all about what everyone already knows all about: that there’s a huge addiction problem in the state just like everywhere else in the nation with a growing admission by even the most ardent drug warriors that arresting people isn’t the solution and that more treatment and prevention is needed. What’s kind of jarring about the committee and, quite frankly, also kind of offensive, is that it’s a big expenditure of funds – travel, hotels, meals and on and on – in a state that can ill afford to waste even a dime. And what’s needed in Illinois when it comes to addictions is more money, because just as we will not arrest our way out of the addiction problem we will certainly not talk our way out of it either.

A Fiscal Basket Case…

Behind the crisis in public addictions in the state of Illinois, and make no mistake we here at Treatment Magazine are choosing that designation carefully and with gravitas because that is indeed what the addictions treatment institutions and infrastructure in the state are facing, is a shocking mismanagement of fiscal affairs out of the state capitol in Springfield that has left the government essentially broke and completely unable to meet the huge public employee pensions promises that have been made by successive administrations, each governor more inept and corrupt than the previous over the last quarter century or so. The bottom line is that in order to get more money for treatment out of Springfield it has to come from either higher taxes or from cuts to other things that have a claim on the public purse or, by some miracle, annual economic growth at 3+ percent annual rates that would fill public coffers with unexpected tax receipts. Since an economic miracle is not expected any time soon in the Land of Lincoln, what we can expect is an epic political battle to emerge around things like keeping a special tax in place so that $20M, and 16,000 people, don’t get lopped of an already strained to the breaking point addiction treatment system. And it’s because this epic battle is shaping up that, in fact, the committee that is making the rounds now around the state is going to be perhaps very useful and worth the expenditure, building up as it will public policy momentum and factual ammunition for the addictions funding street fight that is shaping up in the nation’s fifth most populous state that is home to its third largest urban metro area, Chicago.

Who’s Who of Illinois Addictions

Already it’s been a Who’s Who of Illinois addiction treatment that have appeared to make the case; guys like Chestnut Health CEO Alan Sender, Rosecrance medical chief Tom Wright and Gateway Foundation’s Paul Getzendanner. And, of course, the ever present Sara Howe of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association who, according to published reports, bluntly warned that the state faces the possibility of the complete elimination of prevention programs. This in an environment where Tom Wright is warning that for the first time Rosecrance, a strongly mission focused Rockford-IL non-profit, is seeing more heroin addicts walk through its doors than alcoholics, a huge change from historic patterns, where alcoholics have typically been overwhelmingly the largest group at any given treatment center.

The Prison Vs Treatment Battle… Sheridan Correctional Center

Precisely because Illinois is in such a financial bind, it is in that state, and other states like New Jersey 

that are in similar binds, that the battle over prison versus treatment will likely be played out in its rawest form. And that’s because of a very simple reality: the Illinois’ and New Jerseys of the world simply cannot afford to have both prison and treatment. Seeing the writing on the wall actually long before the recent monster recession, which brought the problem of the massive prison costs associated with felonization of addiction into stark relief, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich actually managed to do some good before he was sent to prison himself. (A key reason for the mess in Springfield: every single Illinois governor over the last 20 years has been sent to jail on corruption charges.) In a move with big national implications that was years ahead of most states and MUCH more comprehensive in its approach, Blagojevich converted an entire prison, Sheridan Correctional Center, into a huge prison-based rehab – by far the largest prison-based treatment experiment of its kind ever. Open for about a decade, and run during that time by Las Vegas, NV-based addictions non-profit Westcare, Sheridan has room for about 1,700 at any given time and it focuses not just on first time offenders but also those who have been “downstate’ multiple times. But while it’s been very successful at quite sharply reducing recidivism, and thus creating big time long term financial savings for the state, Sheridan is not cheap, costing about $45K a year versus about $25K a year for an ordinary prison stay.


Got Addiction News? …TELL US!