School Of Social Work Reviews State Budget Crisis

March 22, 2016

By Natalie Rodriguez 

Dominican students at the School of Social Work have been seeing how the state budget impasse affects social services across the state. A large number of charities are being forced to shut down some of their programs and make some drastic cuts because of lack of funding from the state of Illinois. The most vulnerable individuals of our population are feeling the negative effects of the budget crisis, these students say.

Student Amy Simpson, has seen senior services defunded. She interns at RUSH University Senior Care and has done case management for a respite care program that offers temporary relief to families and caregivers of elderly persons.

“I do a lot of case management through a hospital and doctors’ offices, and one of the services that we often refer to is the respite programing which basically brings someone into a home to take care of, usually an elderly person sometimes with disability needs assistance and relief for the caregiver and it was put on hold at the end of last year,” said Simpson.

Unfortunately, according to Simpson the program is on hold indefinitely.

“The last call, the last respite I had, they were taking the calls but they were basically on backup system, so they’re taking them but they’re on hold. So everyone’s in the lineup, waiting. So right now the respite program is virtually not funded right now. There’s a long waitlist,” said Simpson.

The political disagreement between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats in the state legislature has left Illinois without a state budget since July. According to student Gracie Mayer, social services that receive most of their funding from the state have affected those most marginalized. She interns as a mentor for foster care in the organization Children’s Home + Aid and has seen the effects of the budget crisis.

“They had some cuts but most of the cuts went to supports for youth in foster care, who identified as LGBTQ, so a lot of times the programs that get cut from social services have been ones for populations that are more marginalized, of the already marginalized, so like LGBTQ supports, supports for older persons, thus services a lot of times get cut like services for those individuals with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities,” said Mayer.

Senior care services seem to be the most affected when it comes to program cuts. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, a nonprofit service organization that helps those most in need, has experienced loses in their senior care programs. According to a recent press release:

“The programs that saw the largest cuts were those helping seniors, including home care. Programs eliminated were case management for seniors, adult protective services, and LSSI’s Adult Day Care Center in Moline.”

Due to the lack of state funding, Lutheran Social Services had to cut 30 programs and more than 750 staff positions. As a result, about 4,700 people will lose aid, according to the press release.

Seniors aren’t the only ones being affected though. Many others in services such as substance abuse have felt the repercussions of the impasse. Graduate student Remona Sanders has seen this occur in her internship with the Haymarket Center.

“The first semester I started I was sent to Haymarket and it was a healthy fathers program, and because of the budget cuts they had to close it,” Sanders said. “Their grant got canceled, and it was primarily I think 95 percent African American men who were in substance abuse and they were having group sessions to help them with their fatherhood skills. It got cut so I had to find another way to make my hours in the internship.”

Associate Professor of Social Work Leticia Villarreal Sosa, believes that the full ramifications of the budget impasse will drive people into dire situations.

“Who knows what all the consequences are going to be?” she said. “We have got a lot of people not able to access social services, not able to access subsidized child care, we don’t know what the full implications are going to be in terms of what’s going to happen …I think we’re going to push people into more dire poverty as a result.”

rodrnata@my.dom.edu