Honorable Members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, thank you for allotting me an opportunity to speak about the potential closing of Tinley Park Mental Facility. Tinley Park has seemed to be a target of state government for years, and images of the facility in the media and amongst bureaucracies have been appalling at best. Have we forgotten what public policies that displace our most at-risk Illinoisans can do to the reputation of our State? This closing would be insensitive to the lives of the patients who use the facility and destructive to the employees survival.
Closing this facility will result in hundreds of lost jobs and hundreds of displaced patients. Illinois’ unemployment is a staggering 10 percent and continues to ascend to historic levels. By closing this facility, we are contradicting exactly what we are fighting to do, save jobs. During the first week of veto session we passed historic legislation to improve our energy infrastructure and also created over 2,000 jobs in the process. This closing would shirk our responsibility to provide a reasonable means for survival. Why would we do the exact opposite of what people need?
I would also like the commission to consider that patients housed at Tinley Park have profound developmental disabilities, and many have severe physical disabilities and behavioral disorders. This commission will soon make a recommendation whether or not to strip these patients of their sense of security by displacing them, or to adhere to the public’s outcry to keep Tinley Park open.
There have been reports of the village of Tinley Park’s interest in the land for other developments that could add revenues for the struggling local government. This is an understandable concern. But increased revenue shouldn’t be gained at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our community.
Governor Quinn believes closing the facility would assist our State in closing the $313 million in budgetary shortcomings. If we simply look at the numbers, this seems to be a numeric answer to our struggling economy. My major concern with this method is that it puts monetary value on patients’ lives. If we want to fix Illinois economy, closing a facility that houses individuals with acute mental illness isn’t the solution. Closing the facility would dramatically alter revenues to the local economy. Closing this facility would result in over $50 million in lost economic activity and a further loss of over 150 jobs in the local economy.
In conclusion, tough decisions are unavoidable when our State is recovering, but closing the doors to Tinley Park Medical Center will only dig us into a deeper hole. In order for our state to have a strong recovery, we must find ways to trim out unnecessary expenses. This facility is far from unnecessary.
Senator Emil Jones, III