Illinois Near Top of States Cutting Mental Health Programs

Leaders have cut $187 from state-sponsored programs in the last four years

It's hard to find another state that has cut more from its mental health budget than Illinois.

The Land of Lincoln now ranks fourth in the nation when it comes to cutting mental health programs. From 2009 to 2012, state leaders cut roughly $187 million from state-sponsored programs, according to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

That means parents, spouses and friends looking to help someone facing a crisis may not have many options.

And while last week's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school has many calling for stricter gun laws, forbidding the mentally ill from purchasing a gun may not be as easy as it sounds.

"You're talking 20 percent of the American population," said University of Illinois at Chicago professor Carl Bell.

Many of those responsible for the 61 mass murders in the United States through the last 30 years have had a history of mental illness. Yet in difficult financial times, state budgets have sliced away at mental health funding, including Illinois.

Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday said those decisions are difficult ones to make.

"With respect to our budget, we have to commit whatever we can to mental health investment and care for people who need that care," he said.

Dr. Bell noted that all of society plays a role in that investment.

"[It means] making sure that people with mental illness feel accepted in this society instead of shunned, avoided...," he said.

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