Public health executives plead for funding - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Public health executives plead for funding

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Miriam Link-Mullison, director of the Jackson County Health Dept., testifies before an Illinois Senate committee in Chicago. Miriam Link-Mullison, director of the Jackson County Health Dept., testifies before an Illinois Senate committee in Chicago.

CHICAGO -- Executives representing organizations in Illinois that provide healthcare to the public are pleading with state senators to pass a bill that would provide them with $17.1 million in funding while the budget impasse drags on.

"As of October 1st, my staff now take out their own trash," said Miriam Link-Mullison, director of Jackson County's health department. "Crazy, huh? $2,000 that saves me."

She was making the point that public health agencies like hers have squeezed all the savings they can out of their own budgets. Now they need the General Assembly's help.

One of the more emotional points of the hearing Tuesday came when a senator asked Link-Mullison if there's a moral responsibility for lawmakers to provide funding like this.

"As I see the domestic violence shelter in my community saying it's going to close its doors; as I hear the homeless shelter selling property; as I know that people are not able to work because of daycare centers closing; and I know that staff are being laid-off with years of experience that we'll never be able to replace, yes, there's a moral responsibility to take action," she said forcefully.

The CEO of the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association, Marvin Lindsey, testified that Cairo is being hit particularly hard. He noted the Delta Center has already closed.

"And you had another center down there, Family Counseling Center, that's stepped-up to the plate," he said. "Well, now they're at risk of being shut down within the next month. They don't know how they're going to make payroll by November --- this month."

He said clients with chronic mental health problems are ending-up behind bars in local jails.

"You also have people going to more longer-term psychiatric facilities because there's nothing in the community that can support them," he said.

Members of the committee did not take a vote on the measure. Link-Mullison warned them they'd better act fast. She says even after the General Assembly approves funding the bureaucracy takes two months before it sends "a dime" to local agencies like hers.

Illinois is entering its fifth month without an overall budget to provide state services.

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