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Lots of concerns, few answers in Quinn closing plan that would eliminate 2,660 jobs, $300 million in economic activity
By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — New reports from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) administration say closing seven state facilities will cost Illinois 2,660 jobs and nearly $300 million in lost economic activity.
The governor’s office gave the Legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) the closing recommendations and economic impact studies for the seven sites Quinn has targeted for closing.
Those sites are H. Douglas Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford; Chester Mental Health Center in Chester; Tinley Park Mental Health Center in Tinley Park; Jacksonville Developmental Center in Jacksonville; Jack Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon; Illinois Youth Camp Murphysboro in Murphysboro; and Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.
Brie Callahan, spokesman for the governor, said lawmakers are to blame for the job losses at a time when Illinois’ unemployment rate is more than 9 percent.
“Last spring, the administration made it clear to the General Assembly there would be serious consequences to the budget they passed. … The General Assembly did not appropriate enough funds in these particular lines to keep all these facilities staffed and running for the entire year,” Callahan said.
Quinn, when he announced the closings earlier this month, said 1,900 state employees would be laid off. The other 760 jobs would be indirect losses from restaurants and dry cleaners, for example, because their livelihoods depend on those state employees.
Closing the Singer Mental Health Center would require local community care providers in Rockford to care for the 845 people usually treated at Singer.
But state Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said that may not happen.
“I am extremely concerned that this will send people to hospitals or out (on) the street. A lot of these community providers do have group homes, but there is not enough room,” Bellock said.
Closing the Singer Mental Health Center would mean the loss of the following:
• 164 workers;
• 272 total jobs;
• $13.8 million in lost worker income;
• $20.3 million in total lost income from total job loss; and
• $28.1 million in total economic loss to the community.
The Chester Mental Health Center in southern Illinois may be difficult for Quinn to close. The Legislature would have to change state law to allow the Alton Mental Health Center in Alton to replace Chester as Illinois’ maximum security mental health center. Chester also would see its patients sent to the McFarland Mental Health Center in Springfield, the Elgin Mental Health Center in Elgin and Chicago’s Reed Mental Health Center.
The reports to COGFA state Chester’s closing would mean the loss of the following:
• 485 workers;
• 581 total jobs;
• $37.8 million in lost worker income;
• $45.4 million in lost income from total job loss; and
• $55.4 million in total economic loss to the community.
The mental health center at Tinley Park is one of the state’s busiest, handling nearly 1,900 people a year. Those people would be sent to community care providers and local hospitals.
Bellock said community care providers in Cook County are overwhelmed, and she fears the worst if a plan to transition people out of Tinley Park slowly is not available.
“For a local community to step up and pay for this kind of care, that would be impossible,” said Bellock.
If Tinley Park closes its doors, that would mean the loss of the following:
• 207 workers;
• 365 total jobs;
• $19.8 million in lost worker income;
• $34.8 million in total lost income from total job loss; and
• $50.5 million in total economic loss to the community.
The fear in Dixon, home of the Jack Mabley Developmental Center, is jobs. Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said replacing nearly 300 jobs in his tiny town would be difficult.
“That’d be a pretty big blow (to the local economy),” said Burke. “There are some pretty well-paid people there.”
If Mabley closes, that would mean the loss of the following:
• 174 workers;
• 244 total jobs;
• $10.7 million in lost worker income;
• $14.1 million in total lost income from total job loss; and
• $45 million in total economic loss to the community.
The Arc of Illinois is one of the state’s biggest advocates for people with developmental disabilities. But Arc President Tony Paulauski said closing Jacksonville is not a bad idea, as long as the state takes its time in finding new houses for the center’s 96 residents.
“I think, if the resources are there, and if (the state) makes an effort to work with the individuals and the families, I think you could do this in a year,” said Paulauski.
However, Quinn is proposing to close all seven sites within 90 days.
Closing Jacksonville would mean the loss of the following:
• 441 workers;
• 591 total jobs;
• $27.1 million in lost worker income;
• $35.7 million in total lost income from total job loss; and
• $47 million in total economic loss to the community.
The youth center in Murphysboro may be the easiest for Quinn to close.
Illinois’ juvenile justice system, unlike the adult system, has room for the 59 youth inmates housed in Murphysboro.
If Murphysboro’s youth center were to close, that would mean the loss of the following:
• 96 workers;
• 149 total jobs;
• $6.4 million in lost worker income;
• $8.9 million in total lost income from total job loss; and
• $23.5 million in total economic losses to the community.
No one in Lincoln believes Quinn is bluffing about closing Logan Correctional Center.
The town has one shuttered state facility, the Lincoln Developmental Center, and Mayor Keith Snyder said he doesn’t want another.
“We lost somewhere around 600 jobs about nine years ago, and we’re still struggling to recover,” Snyder said.
There also are worries within the state’s prison system. Closing Logan would force 1,500 inmates to sleep in gymnasiums at other prisons. Randy Hellmann works at Pinckneyville Correctional Center now, but was a guard at other prisons in the 1980s when Illinois last tried to keep inmates on the gym floor.
“I can’t tell you the numerous fights, inmate assaults, and staff injuries when this did take place,” Hellmann said.
If the Logan Correctional Center closed, that would mean the loss of the following:
• 356 workers;
• 460 total jobs;
• $21.7 million in lost worker income;
• $27.1 million in total lost income from total lost jobs; and
• $73 million in total economic losses to the community.