Proposed Health Department Budget Cuts 49% Of Drug Court Treatment Funds | WGLT

Proposed Health Department Budget Cuts 49% Of Drug Court Treatment Funds

Oct 27, 2015

McLean County Health Department Director Walt Howe (center) Questioned By County Board Health Committee Members
Credit Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The McLean County Health Department wants to shift money away from drug court treatment and to other programs. Next year's proposed budget reduces county funding for drug court by $100,000 at a time when the county just asked for and received mental health funding from increased sales taxes in Bloomington and Normal. Health Department Director Walt Howe says changes in federal programs can replace the money because single men are now eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act expansion of Medicaid.

Howe plans to fund Labyrinth and the Healthy Start Program at the Baby Fold.

But, County Board member George Wendt and others wondered whether the designated replacement is a sure thing.

Howe admits it's not easy to determine whether the revenue swap will be neutral.

And a memo from Chestnut Health Systems, which provides drug court services, indicates that drug court patients would be subject to waiting lists and verification as other Medicaid enrollees, and not given priority service.

The end of a grant supporting two recovery coach positions for drug court is also a concern. Past policy has been to eliminate positions when grants dried up, but some county board members believe this should be an exception given the county's new emphasis on mental health services.

The budget remains under committee discussion and will come to Health Committee Debate again next week.