Budget Crisis to Claim Another Victim – This Time, in Rockford

Submitted on Tue, 09/06/2016 - 09:05

Budget Crisis to Claim Another Victim – This Time, in Rockford 

By: Elizabeth Austin

We got some tough news this week from RBC member Rosecrance Health Network in Rockford. Due to the State of Illinois’ failure to provide funding, Rosecrance will be forced to close its emergency psychiatric triage center within 30 days, unless it can find new funding sources to cover its costs.

That’s bad news for Rosecrance ­– but it’s even worse news for the people of Rockford and the surrounding area, who have relied on Rosecrance to provide professional, compassionate help for thousands of patients facing sudden mental health crises. 

The Rosecrance triage program opened in 2012, in response to the State of Illinois’ decision to close the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford. After a lengthy series of public hearings and meetings between the Illinois Department of Human Services and the region’s mental health services community, the State agreed to fund a new triage center, to evaluate people in crisis, stabilize them, and connect them with the most appropriate care.

Since its opening, the Rosecrance triage center has been cited as a national model for mental health crisis management. The triage center has saved tax dollars by keeping mentally ill patients out of hospital emergency rooms and jail cells. Just as importantly the triage center has given help to the families and friends of people with mental illness, by providing a safe, supportive place in times of crisis.

It has been encouraging to see all of the news reports on the community support for the Rosecrance triage center and the good work it has done. (These links are just a few of the stories that the Rockford media have done on the threatened closure; if you have a minute, take a look at some of these articles as well.)

It should be noted that the Rosecrance triage center has received bipartisan support from legislators. Additionally, a recent poll of Illinoisans found that 70% supported “investing more money in mental health care.” Only 11.5% were opposed. Yet instead of funding an exemplary program that has made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of people struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, the State of Illinois has pulled the rug out from under Rosecrance.

A number of community organizations, including local hospitals, are meeting with municipal government leaders to discuss possible alternative funding sources. But it is unlikely that those sources would be able to shoulder the center’s funding over the long term. 

The Rockford Register Star summed up the difficult situation: “The state of Illinois is an unreliable partner. We hope local funding sources become available to provide the mental health service the community needs and provide a true model for the rest of the state.”

The pending closure of the Rosecrance triage center is yet another example of the grave damage being inflicted on our state’s health care and human services infrastructure by our elected leaders’ failure to agree on a fully funded, year-long budget.

Our leaders’ failure to do their most important job and provide funding for mental health and other fundamental services is having devastating impacts throughout Illinois. Some agencies already have been forced to close their doors; others are losing key employees, resulting in the permanent loss of priceless knowledge about the best and most efficient ways to serve and treat people with acute mental illness.

Illinois’ elected representatives must demand an end to this destructive budget stalemate. It’s time for our leaders to step up and forge an agreement to increase state revenues and keep vital community resources – like Rosecrance Health Network’s emergency triage center – in business.