Editors Note: Stretched Thin is an ongoing series of interviews with those managing social service agencies through an unprecedented state budget stalemate.
The CEO of the Baby Fold said she is thrilled that higher education received part of its needs from the state, but human services is at the end of the line. In another part of the GLT series Stretched Thin, Charlie Schlenker talked with Diane Schultz, who said the Baby Fold had already downsized its residential treatment effort and laid off 20 people starting last June.
Since then, she said the state has not paid and not paid and not paid.
Schultz said her agency believes this year's state budget uncertainty will continue for years regarding human services. And Schultz said that may cause the Baby Fold to offer mental health programs to different audiences. For instance she said they are considering not accepting any patients in the 24 hour youth mental health residential program funded by the state. Schultz said this has implications.
"We can shortchange today, but you certainly are going to have a greater negative impact on the long term stability and mental wellbeing of those children and families as well as the long term fiscal impact in the future," said Schultz
Schultz said it's possible that other kinds of programs could be eligible for local funding through McLean County's mental health service initiative. She said it could be that would produce better outcomes than continuing programs that are not now funded by the state.
At one point the Baby Fold had $600,000 dollars in services delivered, but unreimbursed by the state.
Schultz said she feels for families trying to find 24 hour intensive treatment and care for mentally ill youth. The state has not paid the Baby Fold for its residential program in more than 11 months and the agency stopped taking new patients. Schultz said they may phase out that program if the funding uncertainty continues.
"They will be in and out of a revolving door at a psychiatrict facility at a much greater cost than what it would cost in a 24 hour facility such as our residential treatment centers," said Schultz.
Schultz said the Baby Fold could decide in the future to give up on some unstable state contracts, if it could offer services through the county's mental health initiative. She said it's also possible those services could be more valuable and produce better outcomes for young people than current offerings.
Schultz said a quarter of her finance and business and accounting people's time this year has been spent in dealing with the uncertainty in Springfield and project and manage cash flow issues. She said that's a big chunk of time when staffing is already very lean. She's also on two or three legislative conference calls per week, trying to assess stopgap legislation.
Schultz said it is possible offering services through McLean County's mental health initiative instead of the state, may not only stabilize Baby Fold finances and reduce uncertainty, but produce better outcomes for children.
Coming up Friday, another piece of the puzzle as the GLT series Stretched Thin continues the look at how human services are faring amid the state budget standoff.