Chalk Walk

December 17, 2013; WBEZ

How many times do Americans have to read headlines about severe cuts in safety net services to people in need before they get motivated to act? Here’s the latest. Shannon Heffernan writes for WBEZ that Individual Care Grants provided by the state of Illinois have declined precipitously over the years, serving only half as many Illinois young people with severe mental illnesses as they did five years ago. ICGs help families pay for community and residential services for their children.

Because fewer families and young people are being served, some families have taken desperate moves to get assistance for their children. WBEZ reports that “the number of psychiatric lockouts has doubled in Illinois over the past two years.” It is a stunning development, reflecting the choice of increasing numbers of families to abandon their children with severe mental illness on the assumption—or the mere hope—that the children will be able to get mental health care in the custody of the state.

Nonprofits report that the ICG application process for families is “grueling…with tons of paperwork and documentation.” Families feel that “the state was trying to discourage them from seeking out services,” both by the tough application process and the behavior of state officials in sending back applications as incomplete or with tiny errors. Applications that would have gotten easy approval in the past became turned into rejections as the state’s ICG funding became tighter.

One nonprofit staff