Correction: Closer Look-Mental Health story

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm •  Published: January 27, 2013

Quinn's administration also has focused on transitioning people with mental illness and disabilities from institutional settings into community care — transfers they say are both better for individuals and less costly. They are looking to components of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, including a health insurance exchange and expansion of Medicaid eligibility, to expand access to mental health care. But those measures first require action by the Legislature.

Mental health advocates are hopeful Quinn's recent comments are an indication he won't seek further reductions when he proposes his next budget in March. They say they've had to fight in the General Assembly to avert cuts Quinn proposed the past two years.

Lawmakers currently are seeking legislative approval for $12 million they say was supposed to be appropriated this year but wasn't because of a budgeting error. Without the funds, more than 1,000 people with mental illness will lose housing. Providers — many of which already are waiting months to be paid for their work — will have to rely even more on private fundraising.

State Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, is a co-sponsor of the bill seeking additional funds. A mental-health advocate and supporter of gun rights, he's also sponsoring a bill to legalize the concealed carry of weapons in Illinois.

Leitch said he's frustrated that after any tragedy, there's "a big human cry" for more gun control and not as much for better mental and behavioral health care.

"Everybody wants the quick fix, but they don't mention the real cause, and that's mental health," he said. "Until we address these causes and spend money on the community system, we're going to continue to have these problems."

Leitch describes the current system as "sad" and "pathetic." What's needed, he said, isn't just more money but a total overhaul to a less bureaucratic system.

"We need community-based locations where people can address behavioral health," he said. "That sadly does not begin to exist in Illinois."

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, has fought for more mental health funding and is pushing for the Medicaid expansion, which she said will help many childless adults get the care they need. She said it's always been a struggle to get more money for mental health care.

Feigenholtz said last year's mass shootings are a reminder that "we need to be cognizant that this could happen anywhere."

"We would be remiss not to connect the dots," she said.

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