Correction: Closer Look-Mental Health story

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm •  Published: January 27, 2013
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — In a story Jan. 26 about mental health in Illinois, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the name of a co-sponsor of a bill seeking additional funds for mental health was state Rep. David Leiter. His name is state Rep. David Leitch.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Advocates warn of "broken" mental health system

As officials try to prevent violence, advocates sound alarm about Ill. mental health funding

By SARA BURNETT

Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — As lawmakers debate ways to prevent another mass shooting, Illinois mental health advocates say more attention — and money — must be directed to a system they describe as overwhelmed and ill-equipped to identify or care for the mentally ill, including someone intent on carrying out a violent act.

Between 2009 and 2012, Illinois slashed funding for community mental health programs by more than 30 percent — more than all but three other states, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Even before those cuts, Illinois' per capita spending on mental health was about $85 — well below the national average of about $123 per person, the group found.

The funding situation has made it difficult, if not impossible, for people who aren't in crisis or eligible for Medicaid to enter the system, says Lora Thomas, director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Illinois.

And while there's no way to predict when a tragedy like the recent shootings in Connecticut and Colorado might occur — or even if the perpetrator will be someone with a mental illness — the lack of resources in Illinois makes it less likely a mental health provider could intervene.

"We absolutely know the system in Illinois is so broken there is no community-based system that could catch or prevent it," Thomas said.

Dr. Lorrie Jones, director of the state Division of Mental Health, doesn't consider the system broken. But she said the state's budget crisis means mental health — like a lot of other programs — is "challenged."

"We've had to make some unfortunate changes," Jones said.

Gov. Pat Quinn emerged from a recent school safety summit saying the state must "do everything possible" to prevent violence, including looking at mental health in schools and the community. Many of the offenders in mass shootings have had behavioral issues or mental illness.

"We have to, I think, take a look at our resources in Illinois at the local and state level, and redouble our efforts to make sure we have proper mental health for all those who need it," Quinn said.

Providing those services has been difficult amid Illinois' severe budget crisis, said Abdon Pallasch, Quinn's assistant budget director. As lawmakers have failed to resolve the state's multibillion-dollar unfunded pension liability, less and less money has been available for other programs. That's made pension reform even more urgent, Pallasch said.

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