Mental health service providers ringing warning bell

Illinois lawmakers are still working to balance the budget.

Meanwhile, state agencies are bracing for what's expected to be the worst round of cuts yet.

As in the last five years, money for mental health services are on the chopping block again.

Agencies like the Mental Health Centers of Western Illinois say enough is enough.

Client Josh Diederich is happy go lucky and fun to talk to. You would never guess that just a few years ago he was living on the streets in Joliet suffering from a mix of mental illnesses.

What was your life like before this?

Diederich said, "A mess. I was in and out of nursing homes and hospitals, my family didn't know what to do with me."

Now Diederich is doing great. He's one of hundreds of people seeking counseling, psychological help and even housing assistance at Mental Health Centers of Western Illinois. His friend Richard Tego is in the same boat.

Tego said, "It's amazing what the right medication can do. I'm always happy, and in a good frame of mind."

But service reductions for folks like them may be looming. There have been big cuts to Mental health funding in Illinois ever since the state's budget woes came to a head back in 2007. Mental health Centers of Western Illinois here in Mt. Sterling have dealt with them, laying off workers, and stacking work on existing employees. But officials say more reductions will cut to the heart of their mission here.

Roxie Oliver is the executive director of the Mental health Centers of Western Illinois.Oliver said, "We're getting to a point where we can't cut any more without affecting services to our clients."

Oliver says cutting services will end up costing taxpayers more in the end as clients seek help in emergency rooms or turn to other drugs or crime to make it.

Oliver said, "They will basically fall through the cracks."

In fact, a current proposal would end services for folks without medicaid. That would have left Josh out on the streets.

But he says he's lucky. This place changed both he and Richard's lives for the better.

Diederich said, "I'm feeling good and I'm stable."

What would you do without this place?

Diederich said, "Probably be on the streets or in a hospital."

They're not looking back. But they hope help doesn't end for them and others who can't fight the clutches of mental illness alone.

80 percent of that agency's budget is made up of state dollars.

If current proposals go through, medicaid funding would be reduced by six percent.

There's also talk of eliminating all dollars for mental health services for the uninsured and folks not covered by medicaid.

That would add up to a 50 percent funding cut since 2007 for Mental Health Centers of Western Illinois.

Read more here:

Local legislators address mental health care cuts An Update on State Budget Cuts