After several closed door meetings, Gov. Pat Quinn will soon pick what state centers for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled will be shut down due to budget problems. Mental health centers in Tinley Park and Jacksonville are expected to be on the list. AFSCME Council 31, the state's main public employee union, is not just upset by the possible significant cuts to public health care workers, but the process by which the governor may enact the cuts.
"Meeting in secret with no public input or scrutiny, a small handful of top Quinn Administration officials and state legislators is plotting to close state-run psychiatric hospitals and residential centers for individuals with profound developmental disabilities," reads an AFSCME press release.
Back in November, Quinn agreed with the Illinois General Assembly to not eliminate funding for Tinley Park, Jacksonville, and five other other state facilities, at least until the end of June. Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said then that the state was developing a 30-month plan to deal with long-term health care facility issues.
State Rep. Jim Watson (R) of Jacksonville was invited to the recent closed door meetings, but says he was ignored when he spoke up against the lack of transparency in the process.
“I agreed to participate in what I believed would be an open and deliberative process to serve the best interests of the people of Illinois,” Rep. Watson said in the AFSCME press release. “To the contrary, there was no public input and a predetermined conclusion. When I objected and sought to open up the process, I was strongly criticized by the governor’s staff and denied access to basic documents. This is no way to govern or consider important issues for our state.”
A spokesperson for the governor told the Chicago Tribune that no final decisions had been made yet on facility closures, although one will come "soon."