Mental health advocacy groups gathered outside of the governor’s Chicago office Wednesday urging him to lay out a plan for an effective transfer of residents, should the state go through with closing mental health facilities. Mark Heyrman, facilitator for the mental health summit – a coalition of mental health advocacy groups that gathered in front of the Thompson Center, says the state lacks a solid plan for making sure people are transferred out of mental health facilities and into group homes or other community based settings.
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“They are not going to reinvest the money in the community they’re going to take the money out and use it to fund the deficit and that’s not going to work,” Heyrman said. “People are going to end up in really bad conditions. Some people, I fear, will die others will end up homeless…and that’s what we’re fighting to stop.” Heyrman says for instance the closure of a facility in Tinley Park would save the state 20 million but only half of that would be reinvested into community services. Heyrman says the groups he represents do not have a problem with closing facilities, but do have a problem with money earmarked for mental health being used for other purposes.
Heyrman says there is also concern about mental health patients not having the means to afford some of their drugs once the facilities are closed and the savings redirected. The rally comes a day a Committee on Government Forecasting and Accountability public hearing about the closure of the Tinley Park facility. The state is also considering closing mental health or developmental centers in Centralia, Jacksonville and Rockford.