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In social service world, even some lifeboats are sinking

One of the perplexing things about struggling social services in Illinois is that their plight hasn’t really sunk in for the general public.

“I don’t understand how the public is not getting the message,” says Denver Bitner, president and chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. “I keep hearing from politicians: We are going to cut the fat out of the programs.”

The cutting has gone on for years “and we have cut all that we can cut safely,” Bitner says. And even recent discussions of pursuing new revenue tend to leave out social services or even target them for more cuts.

“These are the folks who are most vulnerable, the ones who have the least power,” he says.

Around the state, all kinds of programs that have taken years to build up are starting to collapse as the state runs behind in paying the money it has promised.

In an editorial Sunday, the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out, for example, that the Voices of Vision Talking Book Center, which supplies audio books in the 12-county Chicago area region, is slated to shut down July 1. And two vendors have suspended supplying portable ventilators that allow newborns to go home from hospitals because the state is more than $1 million in arrears.

“We are running a lifeboat program,” Bitner says.

The state needs to stop taking away the paddles.

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