Mental health patients may be hit hard by Ill. budget crisis

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A program that provides housing and help for people with severe mental illness in the Chicago area may be forced to cut services.

Metropolitan Family Services says it may have no other option because of the ongoing budget crisis.

As state lawmakers walked away from Springfield without a budget, the year-old impasse means Metropolitan Family Services can no longer rely on private funds to keep one unique residential program open, which case workers say will be devastating for its residents and society.

Five months ago, Doris Neylon was living on the streets. As a diabetic and a diagnosed schizophrenic, homelessness was Neylon's only option after finishing a seven-year prison sentence, but that changed after getting help from the Metropolitan Family Services program called CILA.

"Now, I'm comfortable and safe. I'm not on the street and I'm able to take my medicine on time, have water to take it. Have the proper way to dispose of my insulin needles," said Neylon.

Living in her own apartment, Nelyon is one 11 CILA residents who will have nowhere to go if funding dries up.

The partially state-funded CILA program provides 24-hour residential services for people with severe mental illnesses. While private funding has kept CILA open for the past year, Metropolitan Family Services says without state help, CILA will likely close.

"Unfortunately, we have had to close down three programs already due to the budget impasse , and we'll have to close down at least four more on June 30th," said Taneka Jennings of Metropolitan Family Services.

Kenneth Carter, a CILA resident, was just starting to see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. The 50-year-old has epilepsy. Frequent seizures combined with schizophrenia landed him in a bad way unable to do what he loves the most, draw. A gifted artist, Carter says the CILA program has lifted him from his knees.

"I've been able to draw, I've felt more relieved. I feel like I'm accepted and that really means something. There is meaning here," said Carter.

Residents and staff say the state cannot afford to leave behind the mentally ill.

"The lack of understanding of what mental illness is-- it's not anything we choose, it's not based on your social status or your economic status. It could be anyone," said CILA Senior Case Manager Angela Russell.

Housing for the mentally ill is not the only casualty of the budget crisis, Metropolitan Family Services says doctors and psychiatric nurses who serve the agency's entire mental health client population may face layoffs.

With all of its mental health programs, the agency serves over 9,000 clients annually.
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