The Pantagraph

Social service agencies closely watching election

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NORMAL — Consider the societal value of social service programs for the less fortunate, not just the dollar cost.
That’s a message for state political candidates running for election Nov. 2 from McLean County residents who have been assisted by human service programs.

“We need more money badly for people in job club and DT (developmental training) because I want to get a job to get out of the house and work with my hands,” said Linda McClure, a Bloomington woman with developmental disabilities.

“Linda has a great plan,” said Jacki Pachiva, director of day programs at Marcfirst in Normal, where McClure is in DT and job club. “She just needs a little help to put that plan into effect.”

McClure is among former clients of the Occupational Development Center who found themselves without work when ODC closed more than a year ago amid the state budget crisis that remains unresolved.

McClure later enrolled in DT and job club at Marcfirst. DT teaches daily living skills, including reading, writing, cooking, math and relationships, said Lori Kimbrough, associate director of DT. Job club focuses on job skills and the job search process.

While McClure gets state assistance, she would like more so she can improve her employability. If she gets a job, she would contribute more to society, paying taxes and encouraging diversity in the workplace, Pachiva said.

“People need to think about the positive impact of these programs, not just the taxes they pay,” Pachiva said. “A little bit of financial pain is worth it to help people to be a part of the community.”

State lawmakers need to weigh the impact of programs in determining what to fund, Kimbrough advised. More people with disabilities want job training but don’t have the financial support, she said.

Among other agencies hurt by state budget cuts has been Center for Human Services (CHS). McLean County’s mental health agency reacted to a $1.5 million state budget reduction by cutting outpatient mental health treatment and counseling for the working poor not on health insurance.

Some people with diagnosed mental illness, such as depression, couldn’t see a psychiatrist or get counseling at CHS, said Sarah Knight, coordinator for medical services. Patients were asked to check with their primary care doctors, some have paid out of pocket for their psychiatric medicines and some are trying to go without their meds.

Roxann Hardesty, 51, of Bloomington, isolated herself in her room for six months after she lost her job of 14 years and lost her house when she couldn’t make payments. She went to CHS, was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and thought disorder, and was stabilized through therapy and medication.

Since CHS made the cuts, she has been without therapy and has been stretching out her medicine, taking less of it. While she has been able to retain her job, she is struggling to keep going and occasionally has suicidal thoughts.

“Those politicians should think: Would they let this happen to their brother, mother, sister, daughter or wife?” Hardesty said. “What would they give up (to fully fund the program)? How about their big, fancy houses, nice cars and cushy chairs?

“We don’t choose to be this way,” Hardesty said, referring to mental illness. “What’s happening to us right now: this is not a healthy situation — for us and the community.”

Where they stand on social services/health care

Bill Brady

Wants more modern standards for building hospitals and delivering medical services; would improve Medicaid so patients see doctors earlier; wants increased use of medical savings accounts.

Pat Quinn

Expanded pool of eligible seniors for prescription drug help; tightened state regulation of nursing homes; signed a bill to provide more health insurance for some of the recently jobless; signed law to ensure orthotic and prosthetic device coverage matches nearly all medical/surgical benefits.