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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Human Service Agencies On 'Death March,' Advocates Say

Brian Mackey

Non-profit groups say the ongoing fight over the state budget could lead to tragic consequences for thousands of Illinoisans.

The agencies have state contracts for everything from taking care of people with disabilities to placing children in foster care. But the partisan fight over state spending means they're not being paid.

Al Riddley, on the board of the Illinois Partners for Human Service, says the groups are being led on a "death march."

"Perhaps it's time to change our state motto from 'Land of Lincoln' to 'We Don't Care,'" Riddley says.

The groups say if Illinois doesn't get a budget soon, many will have to reduce hours, lay off staff or close altogether.

Centerstone is based in southern Illinois, where it helps 17,000 people with mental illness, addiction and intellectual disabilities.

"The people that we're here to talk about are people that can't talk for themselves," says John Markley, the head of Centerstone in Illinois. He says people are still asking to see psychiatrists, even though that hasn't been funded. And he says the group's crisis center has rolled back from 24/7 down to eight hours a day.

"People seem to be governing for their position, and not the people of Illinois," Markley says. "People seem to be governing for their politics, and not the people of Illinois."

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he won't negotiate with Democrats on the budget until they first pass his pro-business, anti-union agenda.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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