"Don't Cut My Services" - NBC Chicago

"Don't Cut My Services"

Protesters rally against cuts to disability, mental health services



    They came in wheelchairs and brandishing signs -- people with disabilities asking that they not be forced to suffer when the state budget axe swings.

    Hundreds descended on the Thompson Center on Monday to rally against cuts they say would affect the quality of their lives.  Protesters held signs that read, "Illinois is wasting money," "Save our services," and "Institutions never work."

    "People want to live in the community. People who are in the community are successful. Those placements are going to be cut, and people are going to have to go back into institutions," said Barry Taylor, with Equip for Equality.

    The goal of the protest was to catch the attention of legislators who return to Springfield tomorrow in an attempt to patch a $9.2 billion budget shortfall.  But the question remains: who will have to pay?

    Sharon Cosgrove was once institutionalized with an eating disorder.

    "They put me in restraints because I would bang my head. I'd say, 'No, I'll stop. I'll stop. They dehumanized me," she said.

    Cosgrove is one of 5,000 people helped each year by the Anixter Center. But the $22 million it gets from the state has already been cut by $6 million, and stands to lose $6 million more.

    "It's a disaster -- 1,700 people will lose services if we have to implement it. We will lay off close to 100 staff," the Anixter Center's Allan Bergman said.

    Sharon, who was planning to go to college in the fall, wonders what will happen to her.

    "We can't have these cuts. I am so scared we're going to lose our home," she said.