Daily Egyptian

Budget cuts could eliminate programs

By Tyler Davis, @TDavis_DE

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget cuts could diminish programs that give students professional experience and Carbondale residents affordable mental healthcare.

Officials at SIU’s Clinical Center were asked to prepare a budget for the organization if it were to lose 50 percent of its state funding. The exercise was prompted by the university after Rauner proposed a 31.5 percent cut of state appropriations to public universities.

The center is a training facility for students in clinical psychology, communication disorders and speech, education psychology and social work, and also serves community members.

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A 50 percent cut of the center’s state money would mean $206,705 would be lost out of its roughly $406,000 budget. Holly Cormier, director of the center, said state money and the fees it collects for the services it provides make up all funding.

“State money just pays the salaries of the staff,” she said. “The money we make [from fees] pays for the electricity. We have to pay for our students’ computer, phones.”

The fees also cover other operational costs, such as training kits for students.

The center has eight professional paid staff members, and about 65 graduate and master’s students across four programs annually train at the facility. About 200 clinical appointments are made per week.

Staff cuts, fewer graduate assistantships and reduced hours are all possibilities if the center loses state funding, Cormier said. If hours are cut, students may have to stay at the university longer to get the needed hours to be competitive in the post-graduation job market.

Cormier, who has led the training facility for nearly three years, said cutting its services could result in three graduate programs — clinical psychology, communication disorders and speech and educational psychology — to lose their national accreditation.

Losing these programs could hurt enrollment because students interested in psychology know of the Clinical Center before they come to SIU.

Jennifer Cannon, who received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s in clinical family health from SIU, said she heard from another student how great the training facility was.

“I applied to different place but when I went to SIU I loved the fact that there was an on-site training facility available,” she said. “And they did live supervision, which I found out a lot of [schools] don’t have centers like SIU.”

The center is open 51 hours a week, allowing students ample training time with staff and patients after classes, and giving clients enough time to get treatment.

Cormier said cutting hours could save money but would hurt all parties involved.

She said raising fees for services is not a viable option because it is meant to serve Jackson County — one of the most impoverished areas in the state, according the 2010 census.

“To serve the training mission, we have to serve the community,” Cormier said. “Our demographic tends to be people who don’t have very much money… Many folks don’t have access to many resources we have.”

Services, including counseling, speech pathology and treatment for depression, cost between $5 and $30. At off-campus mental health centers, a session could cost students and community members $130.

Cormier said patients wanting disability support or counseling and psychological services would have to pay four to five times more for a referral.

“Ethically, if we’d raise fees, we’d hurt the clients who need us the most,” Cormier said.  

Megan Kloep, a graduate student in adult clinical psychology from Marion, wrote in an email students and community members tell her almost daily how lucky the feel to have affordable emotional and mental healthcare all in one place.

Kloep, who received her master’s degree from SIU in 2012, said she has worked in community, and the area does not provide a sufficient amount of training for students in psychology and related fields.

“It would not be possible for graduate students in my program to get the training and clinical hours they need without the clinic — there aren’t enough options in our community to provide all of us with clients or supervisors,” Kloep said.

Even with the state funding concerns, the director did not blame the university for asking to envision such cuts.

Cormier said the university is simply doing the exercise to get a better understanding of all of the departments’ duties and operations.

“It’s got to be demoralizing for the administrators [to have to do these exercises],” she said. “I don’t think them asking us to do it is a hostile thing. They’re asking us all to come together and support a good unified response.”

Although she supports the university, Cormier said she will advocate for her nationally recognized center.

Her department, like others asked to make the hypothetical cuts, may not be seen as a “core academic service” by the university but it does serve an academic and civil service. 

“I hope they see us as essential because we are,” she said.

Cannon was a graduate assistant at the center and said it was essential to her getting a job at Timberline-Knolles, a facility in Chicago that specializes in treating women with issues ranging from drug addiction to post-traumatic stress disorder.

A month after being hired, she was promoted. Cannon said her new position required two years of experience but she got it fresh out of graduate school and her supervisors cited her quality training at SIU.

“I got to see community members, students, people that struggled with severe issues,” Cannon said. “They said my resume was impeccable and I built most of it at the Clinical Center.”

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected] 

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