Truth In Politics: Dumbest Budget Cut Ever?

Governor Cuts Funding To Money-Saving Drug- And Alcohol-Treatment Centers

When the Illinois General Assembly sent Gov. Rod Blagojevich a budget that was $2 billion dollars short on revenue, he had to veto something. So far, the governor has ordered reductions of $1.4 billion.

In Wednesday night's "Truth in Politics" CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery reports on one program where cuts appeared to be short-sighted. It may, in fact, be the dumbest budget cut ever.

One of the governor's cuts was $55 million in funding for drug- and alcohol-treatment programs that the federal government would have matched penny-for-penny. The cut has forced programs across the state to shut down and many of their tens of thousands of clients are likely to end up in jail, costing taxpayers far more.

At an Alsip site called "A Safe Haven," women trying to kick addiction to drugs and alcohol get enough help that their children can live with them, even if they've previously been taken away. Beginning Monday, though, all 120 of the women and kids there will have to leave.

Demetria Woods said, "not knowing where we're gonna go, what happens next, where will we live, the children … how this affects us is overwhelming.

Anthony Cole, vice president of the Haymarket Center, said, "It means you're gonna have increased homelessness, increased people committing crimes, increased neglect and abuse of children, increased burden on Cook County Hospital, increased burden on mental health institutions, because where else can these people go?"

Haymarket got a letter from the state Wednesday; their award-winning addiction-treatment center is losing nearly $4 million.

Come next Monday, they'll be forced to close half the beds in the detox unit. Recovering cocaine user Porcha James said she is thankful she and her son are already in.

"Without Haymarket and places that provide treatment or recovery, I and my son of 12 would be homeless, I would probably be selling drugs or doing lots of other illegal activity," James said.

"We're going to turn them away at the door. It doesn't make sense. They're going to go back and continue to do drugs and not care about their responsibilities as parents," Cole said.

"A Safe Haven" founder Brian Rowland said, "That's what tears me up. I mean, they can't take care of these kids. These kids are going to end up back in the care of (the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services."

According to a University of Chicago study in 1994, up to 80% of the state's prison population committed crimes related to substance-addiction; $1 spent on addiction-treatment saves at least $7 by reducing crime, child abuse and diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The Illinois House voted to restore most drug- and alcohol-treatment money, leaving it up to the Illinois Senate to keep the funding in place, but the Senate President Emil Jones has indicated he won't bring senators back until after the November election.
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