Urgent Action Item–Reinvest savings from closing Tinley Park and Singer MHCs

We need YOUR help to protect mental health needs in Illinois! Tinley Park Mental Health Center closed in July and Singer Mental Health Center will close on October 31. The Governor’s administration plans to strip the mental health community of over $9 million in savings from the closures, despite requirements of law that these savings be reinvested in alternative mental health services. This is unacceptable. It will harm our fellow Illinois residents who are in desperate need for continued mental health services and in turn harm our communities. YOU can protect our friends and community members who depend on these services. Urge your state legislators to tell Governor Quinn that he cannot drain $9 million from mental health services.

Make a difference by taking three easy steps:

1.   Find the addresses for your state legislators here.

2.   Download the attached letter template and fill in your information.

3.   Mail your letters.

It’s that easy to make a difference! Learn more about this issue by viewing our memorandum.

Letter Template – Protect Mental Health in Illinois

Summit Concerns About the Closure of Tinley Park and Singer Mental Health Centers and the Failure to Reinvest Funds Appropriated for those Facilities

The Mental Health Summit is concerned because the Department of Human Services (DHS) has announced that it does not intend to use the money appropriated in Public Act 97-0730 (Senate Bill 2454) either to keep the nine state-operated facilities open or for transitional services in the community. We believe that the Department’s plans:

1.   violate the legislative intent of specific appropriations set forth in Public Act 97-0730;

2.   violate the Funding Reinvestment Statutes; and,

3.   will cause serious harm to persons with serious mental illnesses, particularly persons in

the area which has been served by Tinley Park Mental Health Center.

Public Act 97-0730 (the relevant excerpts are attached as Exhibit A) contains two specific provisions to fund the nine state psychiatric hospitals:

Section 55 provides:

The sum of $202,659,400, or so much as may be necessary, is appropriated from the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Human Services for costs associated with the operation of Alton, Chester, Chicago Read, Choate, Elgin, Madden, McFarland, Singer and Tinley Park State Operated Mental Health Facilities or the costs associated with services for the transition of State Operated Mental Health Facilities residents to alternative community settings. (Exhibit A, p. 51)

Additionally, Section 65 includes the following appropriation:

For costs associated with Mental Health Community Transitions or State Operated Facilities…………..$24,867,000

(Exhibit A, p. 53)

In response to a suit filed by Mental Health America of Illinois and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Illinois, DHS advised the court in writing that it cannot keep Tinley Park open beyond July 2, 2012 or reinvest the funds in community services because only the first of these appropriations ($202 million) is available for these two alternate purposes. (See excerpts from the DHS brief attached as Exhibit B, p.14.) The Department does not intend to spend the second appropriation of nearly $24.8 million on either state facilities or transitions.

DHS has also announced that, even though there will be $18 million in savings from the closure of Tinley Park, it will only reinvest $12.8 million of these funds. The remaining $5.2 million will be spent on another legal obligation currently imposed upon DHS–compliance with the Williams v. Quinn consent decree. (Exhibit B, p. 14) This expenditure violates the language and intent of the Funding Reinvestment Statute. (The Funding Reinvestment Statute is attached as Exhibit C) If DHS can count funds which it would be required to spend even without a facility closure as a “reinvestment” then the Reinvestment statute means absolutely nothing. The Funding Reinvestment Statute was designed to fund specific additional community services that become necessary whenever a hospital is closed.

Counting funds needed to satisfy the Williams v. Quinn consent decree as reinvestment for the closer of Tinley and Singer is particularly outrageous since DHS is under a Federal court order to spend this money on persons leaving Iinstitutes for Mental Diseases (IMD) nursing homes, not on persons in the Southland region who will no longer be able to get services from Tinley Park. Most of the IMDs are located on the North Side of Chicago, not in Will, Grundy, Kankakee and South Cook Counties–the area served by Tinley Park.

Moreover, Public Act 97-0730 has a separate appropriation of $16.7 million to comply with the Williams, Colbert and Ligas nursing home consent decrees (Exhibit A, Section 60, p. 52). If this appropriation is insufficient to satisfy the legal requirements imposed on Illinois by these decrees, the Federal judges may use their contempt powers to encourage the Governor to obtain a supplemental appropriation. The Governor should not violate the legislative intent of Public Act 97-0739 and the legal requirements imposed Funding Reinvestment Statute.

The DHS position about “reinvestment” raises additional concerns about adequate community care because of the DHS plan to close Singer on October 31, 2012. The FY2012 budget for Singer was $14 million. Like Tinley Park, the State has announced that it will only spend a portion of these funds as reinvestment. That is, although only $5 million will be spent at Singer during the four remaining months of its operation (July 1 through October 31), of the $9 million in savings only $4.8 will be reinvested. The other $4.2 will spent on unrelated purposes. Yet again DHS has decided it need not spend the money appropriated by the legislature and it need not comply with the Funding Reinvestment Statute. The fiscal justification for this decision is even more hard to fathom since DHS has admitted that it does have the funds to keep open (or reinvest in community services) eight of the nine hospitals. (Exhibit B, p. 14) Since it has now closed Tinley Park, Singer is one of the remaining eight facilities for which it admits it has funds.

Finally, the Mental Health Summit’s main concern is not that DHS is violating the law, but that DHS’ plans will seriously harm persons with mental illnesses. The $12.8 million which the state has chosen to reinvest in services in the Tinley Park region and the $4.8 million in the Singer region will simply not be sufficient to insure a safe transition to community care. Because DHS refuses to spend the money appropriated by the Illinois Legislature and required by the Funding Reinvestment Statute, persons with mental illnesses in Illinois and their families and communities will be seriously harmed.