Guest Column: Closing Singer: The fine line between public care and private hospital revenues

By Will Rose

In the last few years, Singer Mental Health Center on the northwest side of Rockford has seen budget cut after budget cut, initially leading to the foreseeable end of its own existence.

Political pundits and government officials knew the probable end was near, but community members and Rockfordians held on to a higher calling, hoping Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) (soon to be renamed “Governor Sin”) would keep the needed facility open.

Jobs will be lost, services will be harder to find for the patients, but worst of all, the patients will be pushed into a society that is unaccommodating and unsafe for both sides of the spectrum.

With Rockford having one of the highest crime rates in the state, Gov. Quinn unleashed mental health patients who are on lockdown to total freedom.

As I watched the release of such news on local television, I heard in an interview that local hospitals had been preparing for this for some time. I asked myself, how would they know that Singer was shutting down? Were they key players in the shutdown, and were they influencing government into taking public funds away from the state-run facility to line their own facilities’ pockets?

I have many other questions, too. How can a temporary emergency room provide part-time care to full-time schizophrenic patients? How does temporary care at the Rosecrance-Wattles Center replace the full-time care at Singer?

My biggest question is why are Rosecrance and Rockford hospitals receiving more state funding for mental health care, but Singer is getting shut down?

The answers are not clear, but what is clear is that there is a political move in this state to privatize as much government as possible. Whether it is in our schools with private vouchers and charter schools, the hiring of outside firms to run our prisons and corrections, to the ending of our mental health facilities, private businesses are moving in with little accountability — and even more important, huge profits.

Bill Gorski, CEO of SwedishAmerican Health System, commented that the hospital has been planning to add mental health experts in expectation to the Singer shutdown. In fact, the Rockford Register Star reported that state funding has already been restructured to go to area hospitals (private businesses) to pay for expected “psychiatric emergencies.”

Sounds good for SwedishAmerican, but it wreaks havoc on the local community that will have to deal with the safety issues regarding these “psychiatric emergencies.”

This is one of the worst government blunders I have seen since following politics at a young age. Essentially, the state is telling local communities they don’t care about the mental health of its citizens, nor the safety of those who live near the patients in need of psychiatric help. It is a dangerous world out there, but it just became more dangerous because our governor is either fearful to make the proper cuts in government, or he is appeasing the private health care lobbyists and interests in our state. Whatever the case, his lack of leadership over issues following this state have repeated tenfold.

I just can’t wait to see Gov. Quinn’s name in print again — only this time at the ballot box.

Will Rose is a Loves Park, Ill., resident.

From the Sept. 19-25, 2012, issue

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