WBEZ Interviews TASC on Budget Cuts; Quinn, Cullerton, Madigan, Radogno and Cross Still Deadlocked

(Chicago, IL) —  “We have never been in this kind of situation before.”

That’s a big statement when it’s spoken by TASC President Melody Heaps, who has seen numerous state budget battles in her 33 years at the helm of TASC. 

TASC received budget cut letters this week from the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The letters announced that TASC’s statewide services for criminal justice clients are cut 76%, and TASC’s child welfare services are zeroed out completely.

The back-breaking cuts to TASC, substance abuse treatment programs, and numerous other human service agencies are set to take effect July 1.

Rob Wildeboer, reporter for Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ, 91.5 FM) interviewed Ms. Heaps on Wednesday.* Given that this is not the first time that human services have faced potential budget cuts, Mr. Wildeboer asked if the current uproar is saber rattling.

“This is not saber rattling,” Ms. Heaps emphasized. “These are the facts.”

Ms. Heaps explained that because funding for TASC’s criminal justice and child welfare programs is severely curtailed or eliminated as of July 1, TASC has no choice but to halt intake and begin notifying clients that services are stopped. The statewide agency is currently in the process of terminating assessment, case management, and supervision of some 3,000 clients across Illinois, including nearly 1,200 court-mandated clients in Cook County.

Courts will become backlogged, addiction-driven crime will increase, and the costs of dealing with addiction will be shifted to county jails and hospitals.

In addition, parents who are working to overcome addiction and regain custody of their children will no longer have the services of TASC’s Recovery Coach program. Without treatment for parents, more children will remain wards of the state.

“These budget cuts undermine the very purpose of TASC, and they undo decades of work by the courts and treatment system in Illinois,” said TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez. “They are an affront to every judge who relies on community-based treatment as a sentencing option for nonviolent offenders, to every child advocate who helps to heal families affected by addiction, and to every taxpayer who believes in the efficient use of public dollars to maintain community safety.”

Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross met again on Wednesday, though state budget talks remain at an impasse.

The General Assembly will convene in a special legislative session in Springfield beginning next Tuesday, June 23.

* Note:  TASC does not provide drug treatment, as reported in the WBEZ story. TASC is an independent, nonprofit entity whose criminal justice programs link the criminal justice system to community-based drug treatment.  As the agency designated by the state pursuant to Chapter 20 ILCS 301/40, TASC provides clinical assessment, treatment placement, and ongoing case management and client supervision. 

TASC clients have significantly better outcomes, in terms of reduced crime and reduced drug use, than individuals who do not get TASC.