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Legislation for mental illness, substance abuse recovery housing program heads to Pritzker’s desk

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. JB Pritzker could soon approve a proposal to provide affordable housing and support services to people with serious mental illness or substance use issues. Democratic lawmakers call their plan the Housing is Recovery pilot program.

Sen. Cristina Castro hopes this program can break the cycle of institutionalization for people struggling with addiction or mental health issues.

Under this bill, the Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health would authorize housing through a bridge rental subsidy. The proposal also allows people to receive treatment or other recovery support options.

Still, Republicans worried the state will provide free housing without requiring people to seek the help they need.

“Why wouldn’t we or should we require that these individuals – if we’re going to be giving them housing – get treatment or be required or be reporting to some program? We’re not just paying for a drug addict or a substance abuser. And we’re just giving them free housing so they could continue to do their activities,” said Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). “By the way, doing those activities in the public housing could also affect all the other families that live in those same housing areas.”

Getting people back on their feet

The Elgin Democrat noted people benefiting from the program wouldn’t be able to continue drug use in affordable housing. She also said the most vulnerable people deserve a roof over their heads and services to get back on their feet.

“These are folks who are homeless, have nowhere to go who need help, who need the guidance to address their substance issue. They have to engage,” Castro explained. This is not free housing. They have to be willing to engage.”

The sponsor later noted this program is subject to appropriation from the state.

The measure passed out of the Senate on a 38-15 vote. It now heads to Gov. Pritzker’s desk for his signature of approval.