Friday, May 27, 2011


It's been one day since I received the news that the Senate agreed to accept the House budget proposal and one day since I have helped (in a small way) with the Joplin Relief efforts. I cannot help but compare a natural disaster to an un-natural disaster. In both instances, people lose lives, families, housing, employment and access to healthcare. In both instances, there is media coversage. The Joplin Disaster is all over the news. So is the Illinois Disaster. But perhaps one difference is that we don't call it a human disaster. Instead we call it a budget crisis because reducing numbers is more palatable conversation than reducing lives.

On Wednesday, May 18th, I spoke with Representative Dan Beiser. As many of you know, noise is sometimes like an assualt on my senses. Though I have been in the capital several times without any problem, that day I was not able to turn down the volume of the noise. Just imagine standing right next to the engine of an airplane. That's what I was experiencing. By the time I saw Representative Beiser, I was in tears. I remember blurting out something to the effect that this is not how I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to see a competent woman. Instead he saw a tearful woman that was considerably shaken. Representative Beiser immediately reached out to me and said "You ARE a competent woman." His compassionate response genuinely touched me. It's hard to know exactly what to do when someone is experiencing distress, but his verbal affirmation was just what I needed to hear to set aside my feelings about my appearance and move forward with the conversation.

We talked for about twenty minutes and it was not the easiest discussion for either of us. It was hard for me to both encourage and hold him accountable for decisions that were before him. Even as I write this, it is hard for me to share with you that perhaps what concerned me most about our conversation is that he did not know which specific programs in Madison County are facing budget cuts. I take no pleasure in saying that our elected officials honestly do not know the disaster that is upon us.

That same day I had stopped by Senator Bill Haine's office and left a letter with his secretary. Then a week later on Wednesday, May 25th, I made a follow-up phone call to Senator Haine's office. I was told that Senator Haine had not yet read my letter. I have no way of knowing if Senator Haine read the information I provided as a constituent before the Senate foolishly decided to go with the House recommendations. What I do know is that I do not like sharing this information with you today. I would much rather blog how our elected officials are protecting the health, safety and welfare of persons dependent upon human services. But I have not yet been given that opportunity.

With both a natural and un-natural disaster, there are similarities and differences. Perhaps the most significant difference is that an F5 tornado cannot be prevented, yet a disproportionate budget CAN be prevented if only our elected officials would act with courage to make it so...if only everyday people would offer relief efforts by advocating on behalf of persons who are not positioned to advocate on their own behalf...if only compassion would be turned into action that demonstrates people really do care about their neighbors and those less fortunate...if only...

Monday, May 9, 2011


In Madison County Illinois, one day after Mother's Day, a single Mom and her four young boys need a place to live. The Mom has a full-time job with income that puts her just over the eligibility threshold for public housing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Earlier this week I attended a training and to my great pleasure, had opportunity to meet two women I had never before met that had emailed letters in support of mental health services. After interacting with them at the training, I was especially privilaged to deliver their letters (included in a packet of letters) to members of House Human Services Appropriations Committee & Senate Appropriations I Committee. I was blown away by the content and just wanted to take a moment to share with you some of what was shared with our elected officials.

"Reducing services to those whose wellness and safety will be in jeopardy by doing so, that also have no other options, cannot be done. How can we, any of us, justify bringing actual harm to others." -Jerry, Rock Island

"I have epilepsy and major depression. I need the medical card to pay for my medications...These services are necessary for my survival. " -Sherry, Belleville

"I have a medication that costs $900 at retail cost and since this has helped me remain stable I feel like these kinds of services should not be cut" -Melody, New Baden

"I have been homeless and have had no where to go. My life has improved with Mental Health services." -Elizabeth, Granite City

"I was fortunate to find a therapist who made me feel safe" -Ginger, Schaumburg

"We are in recovery and able to be productive again because of supported housing, CIL's, WRAP, and other programs which give us a chance to live our lives as people of worth." -Patrick, Granite City

"Through intensive therapy at a community mental health center as well as medication and a free, public mental health class called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Planning) and several local support groups I was able to realize that my prognosis did not have to be my future. In time, I was able to graduate, to go on to college, and today I am looking forward to entering the mental health system again; this time as a practitioner." -Jennifer, Troy

"I have a Masters Degree and worked for 16 years in two Fortune 100 depression became so severe that...I had to quit my job. I applied for and received Social Security Disability Income for about two years. As soon as I was able, I returned to full-time work and have been working full-time and paying taxes ever since. It was very hard for me to be dependent on the government, but if the funds had not been available, I’m not sure what would have happened to me." -Mary, Wheaton

"This is just a small part of what the services of my community mental health center gave me. It changed my life forever they gave me my voice back. I have come full circle in my recovery. I now work for the very agency and group home that saved my life." Maggie, Peoria

"I pay taxes; I pay into the health insurance; I was able to raise and educate my two daughters...they are also tax payers and contribute to the well being of the communities in which they live." -Jeannie, Galesburg

"As you can see, human services, specifically mental health services, have been a lifeline for me." -Alice, Rockford

"Is the 'right to life' really an unalienable right?" -AJ, Madison County

"Please support the mental health system. They are the reason why I am stable to this day." -Sheila, Belleville

"I was fortunate to have family support and education, but was dependent upon disability income for about 2 years. That has been about 20 years ago and since then, I have become employed and now pay taxes." -Jon, Belleville

"...daily I read horrific stories of suicide, murder and abuse. These atrocities will only increase as services are reduced to nothing more than triage centers helping only the worst of the worst case scenarios." -Lynn, Belleville

"Maybe we can try balancing our books on those who can afford to live with a few less things and not their homes and food." -Jeremy, Lebannon

"If I am required to budget and pay my bills, certainly the state has to live up to the same standard." -Sandra, Fairview Heights

"Let the people know that Illinois takes care of its’ own who have disabilities and are elderly. They may not have the political power to speak out as some do, so we need to speak for them. I believe with strong leadership, Illinois can become a state in which we are proud to live in." -Ivalu, Mt. Carmel

"Since I've lived in Illinois, I've progressed significantly...The mental health services have helped me." -Pilan, Shiloh

It sure was hard just pulling quotes...there were so many good ones to choose from! Many, many, many thanks to people throughout the entire state who are writing letters and making phone calls. TOGETHER, we make a difference!