Rehabilitation center faces budget crisis

By Ahmad Hicks, @AhicksSports_DE

Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed budget cuts that could wipe out drug and alcohol treatment for more than 7,000 Illinois residents.

Rauner’s Feb. 18 proposal would eliminate $27.6 million from the $127 million budget of the Illinois Department of Human Service’s Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, according to the Gateway Foundation. Gateway is a charitable foundation in Carbondale that operates a substance abuse program.

The foundation is one of 10 drug and alcohol treatment centers in Illinois. Lori Dammermann, executive director of the foundation, said along with eliminating treatment, the budget cut would jeopardize the chances of patients getting a job when leaving the program. 

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The center has 70 in-house residential beds for men, women, boys and girls. Dammermann said even though the foundation can only house 70 people, it still assists patients who can not get into the center as out patients.

Jane Nichols, an assistant professor at SIU’s Rehabilitation Institute, helps coordinate the substance abuse addiction program. The program does not treat patients, but trains individuals to become counselors and work with a broad range of people facing challenges.

“First of all, as a taxpayer, I appreciate having someone go to treatment,” Nichols said. “It costs substantially less than to go to jail.”

Dammermann said when a patient goes to rehab, they learn skills to help them become employable, better parents, more capable of managing emotions and family life, and they also learn where they can go to get support.

“Sending people to rehab saves money in the long run,” Dammermann said. “Lock people up and they just learn to be better criminals.”

It costs patients $600 to stay one night in the Gateway Foundation. If the proposed budget cuts are approved, the foundation estimated it would lose more than $2 million. As a comparison, the annual cost per inmate at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester is $20,699, which is about $57 per day, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. 

“The money is important to our foundation because it affects people with Medicaid, and a good portion of our clients are on Medicaid,” Dammermann said.

The cut would result a 12 percent overall decrease, eliminating 710 patients from receiving healthcare.

Dammermann said she did not know the exact number of clients on Medicaid and how much was provided for each client, but stressed the importance of losing them if the budget passes.

“If this goes through, certain people may not receive the treatment they need,” she said.

Nichols said treatment centers are good for more than just alcohol and drug problems—they can diagnose other issues in people’s lives.

The Gateway Foundation also helps treat family problems and psychological troubles. It is one of the only centers in Illinois to help out young adolescent girls, Dammermann said.

“This area needs more centers to help people. Substance abuse is higher in areas like Carbondale,” Nichols said. “The people who have serious problems are the ones who need an intervention. Treatment gets them away from those problems.”

Since 2009 the state has slashed $39.7 million from treatment, denying care to 8,941 individuals in order to solve annual chronic budget problems, according to the Gateway Foundation.

 “It’s something that needs to be treated like diabetes or cancer,” Nichols said. “The only alternative for some of these people are jail. They don’t have a way out outside of the rehab center. They will end up in a mental hospital, jail or dead.”

Ahmad Hicks can be reached at [email protected]

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