Budget impasse gutting services at suburban health clinic

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - The fallout from Illinois' budget crisis is spreading.

Some Downstate health clinics that provide flu shots to seniors and help feed infants are now open just a few hours and one day a week.

The state hasn't paid a penny to these clinics in four months, and it's forced one Southwest Suburb to cut mental health services, which has created a six-month wait where there previously wasn't one.

Little Ariel Wilinski got good news at the Stickney Township Medical Center late Tuesday. Her Mom’s fear that the 2-year-old had a serious health problem turned out to be a false alarm, prompting smiles all around.

Despite the State of Illinois' refusal to pay more than $150,000 it owes, the clinic is so far maintaining services for mothers and children. But it has been forced to make big cuts in mental health services, even as demand remains high in this blue collar suburb where many families face economic problems.

“A large part of our population that we serve are chronically mentally ill who really require the medication services. And so it really pained me to see that we were going to have to cut back drastically and put people on a waiting list,” said Behaviorial Health Director Melinda Antoskiewics.

A group of state senators held a hearing Tuesday on how to restore such services at health clinics that rely on state funding. Springfield Democrats said they may call a vote next week on a bill to fund local clinics. 

If the budget stalemate drags on through the winter, officials at the Stickney Medical Center warned they could have to begin cutting family services, including vaccinations for childhood diseases and the flu.

“Health is not something really that can be messed around with,” Mona Wilinski said.

FOX 32: What would you tell the governor and the General Assembly?

“Pay them the money that they owe 'em!” Wilinski added.

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