By Jamey Dunn
The amount of overdue payments the state owes to providers of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs increased by $12 million in the span of a month.
According to the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA), the state owed $34 million at the beginning of October, and it now owes $46 million — in some cases, on bills that are seven months overdue.
Sarah Howe, spokesperson for the IADDA, said providers throughout the state are in danger of soon being unable to pay employees. “The next payroll out, the one after that, they are potentially going to have to miss it.”
Howe said that many providers have stopped offering essential services, such as detox programs, sending individuals seeking help to local emergency rooms. She said specialized substance abuse treatment providers are more equipped to handle such procedures, and sending those in need to hospitals costs taxpayers more and clogs up emergency medical treatment facilities. “I cannot think of a provider that hasn’t had to do something as far as curtailing services,” Howe said.
She added that residents whose lives are not touched by addiction might not realize how much of an impact the state’s late payments have on treatment providers because treatment centers in their area may still be open.
However, Howe said they have likely cut offerings, such as residential care, and are running long waiting lists for treatment. ‘When someone comes and says they are ready for treatment today, you need to take them today. … When you have those moments, you really want to seize upon them.”
Instead, Howe said, “[getting inpatient treatment] could take six to eight weeks. That’s a whole different ball game.”
Howe added, “You may be driving by a provider that still has the lights on, but what’s behind that front door is less than what was there a year or two years ago.”