Letter: Open letter to our legislators

By on February 11, 2010

To all our south Kane County and neighboring legislators:
First of all, thank you for your elected service on behalf of the residents of our area. Yours is a difficult position.

After the primary elections, it will be time to address, in collaboration with all your peers of both parties, our current economic crisis in the state, as a whole, and specifically in state-funded human services. It is absolutely critical that politics be set aside in favor of resolving the state’s budget problems as soon as possible. If something isn’t done soon, the problem will only become worse.

As I expressed to several of you at a recent NMAI meeting, you may not have been around long enough to be completely responsible for the current fiscal problems, but is is your job to resolve it. I ask you to personally urge your leadership to work across party lines to come to a resolution to the fiscal crisis. Do whatever you need to do, because everyone, not just the legislative leaders, will be held responsible when services can no longer be delivered.

It is patently unfair, unjust, and just bad business for providers of state-funded services to have to wait anywhere from 30 to 120 days or more for payment from the state for no other reason than the checkbook is empty. These agencies are having to borrow funds (with interest fees that will never be reimbursed) in order to meet payroll. The agencies that have contracted with you, in good faith, are floating the state’s checkbook. This is an embarrassment. Providers need to be paid on time. Period. End of story.

Finally, your constituents whose family members receive state-funded services deserve to know if these services will continue or not. The current budget does not begin to address the 16,000 Illinois residents who are on the waiting list for developmental disability services. Or the needs of the parents of an adult child with a mental health crisis who has to be treated in a hospital ER for 24 hours because Illinois and DMH decided that they could no longer fund the CHIPS program to stabilize mentally fragile citizens.

The fact of the matter is Illinois ranks last (or near last) in state-funded community-based services for those Illinois citizens with developmental disabilities or mental illness. We, as a state, and you, as leaders of this state, should find this embarrassing. I personally know residents who have moved their children out of state to get adequate services for their kids. This should not be necessary.

Other than relocating to another state, the individual resident has no way to solve these problems. You and your leaders are the only ones who can. We are all counting on you to get the job done so that people are served and providers are paid. I’m looking forward hopefully to a productive legislative session this spring. I would be really proud if our local legislators would take the lead with concrete proposals to resolve the crisis.

Again, thank you for your service. Yours is not an easy job, but I don’t expect you thought it would be when you were elected. But it’s time to get it done.

Jerry J. Murphy
Executive Director
Mental Health & Mental
Retardation Services, Inc.