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Local News

Will County Health Department to cut 20 jobs

The Will County Health Department building in Joliet.
The Will County Health Department building in Joliet.

JOLIET – The Will County Health Department plans to cut 20 jobs in December.

The cuts are coming in mental health and family health services as the department faces a $900,000 deficit at the end of this fiscal year, department spokesman Vic Reato said Wednesday.

The cuts include 16 union employees and four managers. Notice was given Friday, Reato said.

“This is the result of a process that began very early in the year – January, in fact,” Reato said. “We contemplated there would be a significant need based on our estimate of a budget shortfall.”

Revenues are down, particularly in state grants that fund health services, Reato said. But the health department also is generating less revenue from clients who pay on sliding scales, he said.

The 20 job cuts come out of a department workforce of 331. The department budget is $29 million.

County health departments are making cuts around the state because of the state budget crisis, according to the Illinois Public Health Association.

Will County marks at least the 17th county health department that has cut staff, hours or services since the state stopped sending payments July 1 amid a budget impasse, said Miriam Link-Mullison, president of the association.

Link-Mullison, also the administrator for the Jackson County Health Department, said the budget crisis is beginning to cripple public health services in Illinois.

County health departments inspect restaurants, regulate drinking water and provide other services in cooperation with the state, she said. But the state stopped paying in July because of the budget impasse.

“It is, to me, unconscionable that the state is not paying for services we are providing, and we may not be paid for several months,” Link-Mullison said. “These are public health services that I think the citizens of Illinois have a right to.”

She called upon Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to appropriate the $17.1 million normally provided to county agencies each year.

Reato said the Will County Health Department is making cuts in areas where it could find another agency in the area providing the same or a similar service.

Cuts in Will County include: a program providing services to low-risk offenders referred by the court system, including counseling services for drug addicts and sex offenders; a drug addictions program; psychiatric services; and Healthy Families Illinois, which provides services for teen mothers.

Which union and management employees lose their jobs still could be affected by workplace rules for layoffs, Reato said.

Union employees are represented by Local 1028 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which received notice Friday, Reato said. Individual management employees also were notified.

Reato said the department’s programs, which number more than 50, have been under review since the start of the year, when the funding shortfall was anticipated.

“We looked at what the state budget situation might be – which, obviously, was an uncertainty from the beginning,” he said.

The job cuts take effect Dec. 1, which marks the start of the department’s next fiscal year. Reato said the cuts were made to balance the budget next year.

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