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Chicago treatment centers affected by budget cuts

State-funded treatment centers across the country provide hopes of recovery to dependents who lack resources to be admitted to private facilities. Chicago’s Haymarket Center has been performing well in this area, up until recently when a budget cut forced it to lay off as much as 80 health care workers and to reject admission of more than 200 uninsured patients.

The budget cut was recently implemented by Governor Rod Blagojevich in an effort, according to him, to erase and recover a $2 billion deficit in the passed state budget.

Several agencies were also slashed of some of their funds but the hardest hit was the Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, which lost 21% of its share of the state budget. Furthermore, the agency is said to lose as much as $52 million from federal matching funds, which together with the state-implemented cut would eliminate service for around 40% of the people who are treated in the state treatment centers yearly.

Haymarket Center, which is the largest treatment facility in Chicago, along with other smaller treatment centers are now forced to refer individuals who seek treatment to several public hospitals on top of not accepting new uninsured patients.

Lay-off of counselors also meant less and shorter services given to admitted patients. Over the past month, several addicts and alcoholics were sent home without completing their inpatient programs and extended treatment is limited only to certain groups.

The current situation and resulting undertakings worries several interest groups and health care providers. According to Julie Dworkin , policy director at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, “This is the worst possible population to target. These are people who have finally gotten to a point where they can put their lives together, and if you take their services away, they are going to relapse.”

For his part, Haymart Vice President Anthony Cole calls the recent cuts , $4 million to his own facility, a “dismantling of an entire health care system in the state of Illinois.”

On the other hand, amidst the questions and criticism, Gov. Blagojevich defends his actions . He said that his steps were not a simple and easy decision while pointing out that funds in other agencies cannot be cut. “You know, you ought to walk a mile in my shoes,” Blagojevich said. “All things considered, I think I made a lot of the right choices in difficult times.”

Social services agencies do not seem to buy this reasoning, as Michael Darcy of Gateway Foundation says, “If people aren’t going into treatment, they’re going to . . . commit crimes and wind up in prison, or be referred to a mental institution, or wind up in a hospital. The state doesn’t save a nickel. As a matter of fact, it is going to cost the state more.”

If one thing is definite and positive in midst of this “dismantling of an entire health care system,” it is the reiteration of the importance of treatment to helping addicts and dependents recover. Miramar Recovery Center recognizes this and continues to provide treatment programs to drug and alcohol dependents from across the country.