Fight for state centers has been lost
SouthtownStar editorial June 22, 2012 9:00PM
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:41AM
After many months of fighting the good fight — rallying support and pressuring and pleading with state officials — supporters of two major state facilities in South Cook and Will counties have lost.
Despite the Legislature finding money to keep open the youth prison in Joliet and to delay the closing of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, it became apparent last week that both will close, though the Illinois Youth Center closing was pushed back to Oct. 31.
We’ve advocated keeping both open, while wondering where the patients and inmates will end up, but it was clear that accomplishing that would be a long shot. Gov. Pat Quinn is determined to close them as part of statewide budget cuts. State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. and Sen. Pat McGuire want Quinn to visit IYC-Joliet in hopes of changing his mind. They’ve gotten the cold shoulder, and we don’t think that will change.
IYC-Joliet is among seven prisons closing. The Tinley Park center, set to close July 1, is one of two mental health centers to shut down. In each case statewide, local opposition to the closings surfaced, but not all could keep operating. A report last week by the state’s auditor general says Illinois is in the worst financial condition of any state, with a nearly $44 billion deficit (assets vs. liabilities) as of a year ago.
The big question remains — what will happen to those housed at the Joliet and Tinley Park centers? IYC-Joliet is Illinois’ only maximum-security youth detention center, but state officials say the inmates, most of whom have committed heinous crimes, can be placed in more secure areas at some other youth centers. We’ll see.
As for the Tinley Park patients, the state’s plan is to place them in smaller, community-based settings and in private hospitals’ psychiatric wards. But mental health advocates say there’s not enough money to ensure equal or better care and to get hospitals to offer more psych beds. So do we.
Our bungling political leaders have driven our state so deeply into debt that we all are going to pay for many years. Land of Lincoln? More like Land of Liability.