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Local News

Walsh calls special meeting to avoid Will County Health Department program cuts

JOLIET – In hopes that the full Will County Board will vote this week to save critical Health Department services from suspension later this month because of the Illinois budget impasse, County Executive Larry Walsh Sr. has signed an executive order calling for a special meeting.

The meeting – scheduled for Thursday morning immediately after the board’s regularly scheduled session – asks elected officials to consider lending $426,873 to keep afloat the Health Department’s adult behavioral health, crisis response and juvenile justice programs.

The loan would avoid 18 layoffs through Nov. 30, the end of the county’s fiscal year. It also would maintain services for people with mental illness. Illinois owes the Will County Health Department just over $2.1 million for work performed under contracts dating back to July 2015.

“This [vote], if successful, buys us time on the most critical programs,” said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for the Democratic county executive’s office.

Walsh’s call for a special meeting follows last week’s decision by a 10-member, Republican-led Executive Committee to reject the local agency’s loan request.

The committee members rejected the request, but then agreed to advance it to the full 26-member board for a vote at Thursday’s meeting. Later in the committee meeting, however, they voted, 6-4, to reverse that decision after health department staff and union leaders left.

It’s unclear if Walsh has enough support from the full board, which has a Republican majority, for the loan to be approved. Board members recently have accused one another of using the agency’s crisis as political fodder.

The Executive Committee voted down the loan request, but some GOP members – including Public Health and Safety Committee Chairwoman Judy Ogalla, R-Monee – have been supportive of the health department.

Those who voted last week against the loan request have said the county cannot afford to – nor should it – pay for Illinois-funded grant programs.

The meeting is set for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet.

Walsh Sr. was not available Monday for comment.

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