A deal could be near to keep seven state facilities open. Michael Gelder, the senior health policy advisor to the governor, told lawmakers studying the governor’s plans to close some facilities that it’s possible the legislature could find enough money through “re-balancing.” One of the problems identified with the governor’s plan is the speed with which hundreds of mentally ill Illinoisans would have to find new places to live, probably smaller, community-based group homes.
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Gelder says some of the residential centers still must close, but the administration is willing to take more time. Under that scenario, “that would allow us to close up to four facilities over the next 2½ years,” Gelder told members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. COGFA’s co-chairman, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), said he understands that the state is legally obligated to send out pink slips to state workers about to be let go; perhaps, if negotiations to keep the facilities open are successful, “the administration should go take those pink slips out of people’s mailboxes before the holidays.” The facilities to be closed include prisons at Murphysboro and Lincoln, developmental centers at Jacksonville and Dixon, and mental health centers at Rockford, Tinley Park, and Chester.