“Every day of delay risks public safety.”

05032017CM1018Following testimony from the director of the state’s prison system, State Sen. Pat McGuire asked how the Illinois Department of Corrections is fulfilling a court order mandating it provide greater mental health treatment to inmates.

“Illinois already has spent $17 million on construction work to transform Illinois Youth Center-Joliet from a prison for teens into a mental health facility to provide treatment to 460 adult offenders with serious mental illnesses,” said McGuire, D-Joliet, following the hearing. “But the new Joliet Treatment Center hasn’t opened yet because of the governor’s refusal to compromise on a budget.”

A federal court ruled last year in Rasho v. Walker that the Illinois prison system must improve services to the roughly 11,000 inmates with serious mental illnesses. As part of the department’s efforts to fulfill that mandate, IDOC has committed to opening up five new treatment centers, including the former IYC-Joliet. While IDOC’s legal counsel testified that fulfilling the mandate is dependent on when the state passes a budget, McGuire said leaving inmates untreated creates a dangerous situation.

“IDOC Director John Baldwin is sincere about treating offenders with serious mental illness, and I support him. My fear is that no budget means no treatment. That would mean these offenders grow sicker, leading to more incidents involving other offenders and prison personnel, and more risks to our communities when those offenders have served their time. I urge the governor to govern and settle on a budget,” McGuire said. “Our duty is clear. Every day we delay opening these treatment facilities puts inmates and officers at risk.”

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04042017CM0125Without a plan to address problems of inadequate pay and staff shortages, the workers who care for those with developmental disabilities are struggling just to keep the state’s most vulnerable people safe, said State Sen. Pat McGuire.

In a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, McGuire told Department of Human Services Secretary James Dimas that non-profit providers like Cornerstone, Trinity and Easter Seals are losing staff from group homes to local warehouses and distribution centers.

Low reimbursement from the state limits the starting wages of group home workers to $9.35 per hour, while some logistics companies are paying starting employees as much as $15.

“As a result,” McGuire said, “group homes are short-staffed, the remaining staff members are working up to 70 hours a week, and the emphasis now is solely on safety, on keeping residents alive, rather than on finding job opportunities and other community activities for group home residents.”

Dimas revealed that the governor’s only plan to raise these workers’ wages relies on the Senate’s Grand Bargain bipartisan compromise, which the governor to date opposes. The department has nothing in its own budget to address the situation, nor could Dimas identify a specific hourly wage for group home workers the administration deems to be fair.

“Secretary Dimas strikes me as an honorable man,” McGuire said. “But his boss, Gov. Rauner, looks to be ignoring the risks created by underfunding group home disability support workers – unconscionable, unnecessary and unacceptable risks.”

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03282017CM0218State Sen. Pat McGuire challenged the Illinois Department of Labor to fulfill its grave responsibility to protect Illinois workers from injury and illness on the job in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday.

In questioning the Illinois Department of Labor’s Acting Director Anne Hui, McGuire called attention to unfilled positions in the state’s workplace safety consultation and enforcement programs and the fact the department is on track to resolve fewer workplace safety cases this year than in past years.

McGuire received no clear answers on how the department would address shortages of field personnel whose jobs include investigating safety violations and helping employers make their workplaces safer. Under the budget proposed by the Department of Labor, a portion of a 5.6 percent increase would go toward improvements to the department’s information technology.

“I urged Acting Director Hui to give proper importance to saving the lives, limbs and lungs of Illinois public and private sector workers,” McGuire said. “God forbid that someone is injured, poisoned or killed at work because the Rauner administration chose to spend funds on IT programs rather than safe workplaces.”

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McGuire speaking at the  Higher Ed Committee.State Senator Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, issued the following statement after Illinois universities testified at committee hearing today. Many said that a looming $4.6 billion budget deficit in the governor’s budget proposal threatens programs and staff.

“I’m disappointed that to date, Governor Rauner’s administration has presented a budget  which spends $4.6 billion more than projected revenue,” McGuire said.  "Gov. Rauner continues to avoid the constitutional requirement that he present a balanced budget. This undermines the stability of our universities and community colleges."

Representatives from Southern Illinois University testified that more cuts could bring an end to majors, minors or even whole departments and could imperil regional health services. Western Illinois University reported it is using available unrestricted funds and has cut jobs, pay and programs.

On the possibility of further belt tightening, a representative of Governor’s State University said, “Our belt was gone in FY16,” and pointed out the university has already cut 22 programs and 62 positions, as well as imposed a 15 percent tuition increase.

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