Town Hall Forum on Monday, July 28 Re: The Crisis in Illinois’ Health & Human Services System

CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—July 28, 2014. Illinois’ ongoing budget crisis has sparked severe problems in the state’s health and human services system — from public aid and food stamps to medical, mental health and disability services. Residents are pushing back by bringing personal testimony about the crisis directly to state legislators. Their goal: to ratchet up awareness about the need to reinvest in vital safety net programs that support both individuals and the economic viability of their communities.

A new coalition linking recipients and providers will host a Town Hall Forum to take testimony from residents with first-hand experience of the mounting pitfalls in accessing vital services through the state’s cash-strapped safety net programs. The event starts at 6:30 PM at First Unitarian Church at 5650 S Woodlawn in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, with testimony to be presented to State Reps. Mary Flowers, Esther Golar, Andre Thapedi (invited)

Organizers say the state has taken some positive steps to address the need for DHS services — including enabling the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA. But they argue that privatization, office closures, “assembly-line” bureaucracies and overzealous Medicaid purges have decimated services at a time of increasingly dire need driven by record economic inequality and rising poverty rates.

That dynamic, say residents, locks out growing numbers of the state’s neediest residents from programs at a time when their families and communities can least afford barriers to service — while state service workers struggle with impossible caseloads and community-based care-givers have wages and benefits that leave them squarely in the economic ranks of their impoverished clients.

Witnesses will testify to state legislators on a range of human needs issues, including:

Difficulties in negotiating an increasingly bureaucratic and understaffed ‘assembly-line’ process at Illinois DHS offices, exacerbated by elimination of assigned, accountable caseworkers for the Department of Human Services.  DHS insists their ‘task-based’ approach increases efficiencies, but consumers and workers call it a ‘disaster’ and ‘inhumane’

Wrongful termination of thousands of eligible residents from Medicaid coverage, driven by the mistakes of the Maximus Corp, a private contractor being phased out by the Quinn administration, but praised by Republicans Bruce Rauner and Patti Bellock

Chaos, health hazards and lack of accessibility at multiple DHS facilities,

A chronic — and growing — lack of adequate state revenue for human needs across the range of state services.

Specific proposals include:

restoring accountable DHS caseworkers assigned to people, not tasks (DHS plans to expand the assembly-line across the state)

restoring Medicaid drug and dental benefits cut under the SMART Act

stopping privatization contracts like Maximus

fund services with a sales tax on speculative financial transactions and a graduated income tax

The Alliance for Community Services is a new community-labor coalition bringing together recipients and front-line human services workers. 

Organizations participating in Monday’s Town Hall include First Unitarian Church Social Justice Council, Southside Together Organizing for Power, Northside Action for Justice, AFSCME Local 2858, AFSCME Local 2806, Chicago Teachers Union and IMPRUVE.