Here in Illinois, the Department of Human Services has 25 offices that are slowly closing one by one.
In our area, Boone and Lee county DHS centers are going to be consolidated. Now clients are worried about getting to the new location in order to not lose out on food stamps and Medicaid.
For 16 years Sandra Ormiston has relied on the Lee county Department of Human Services in Dixon, but she has received a letter saying “Starting January 27th you will be served by the Ogle County office.”
Sandy told 23 News, "I think the governor is making big mistake by taking local assistance centers away from people who need it."
23 News clocked just how far Sandra will have to travel when she needs face to face assistance. We set the odometer at zero in Dixon, and when we pulled up to Ogle County’s DHS office in Oregon we traveled almost 17 miles, but Sandra doesn't have the most reliable transportation and fears she may not be able to get her food stamps and Medicaid.
She says, "The people who are most at need don't have the means to go to another town."
But the State of Illinois says they are working on how to service clients who can't get to these new locations.
Tom Green with DHS stated that, “We are working on what to do for those that do not have any transportation. We may be able to bring in a social worker that would be in the county once a week.”
The eight employees at the Lee County office will relocate to Ogle County. Green says the move will save money on rent in order to provide more money to programs and staff, but Sandra says the State of Illinois hasn't given thought to the inconveniences they're causing.
The Boone County DHS office is set to close on February 23, but efforts are still being made to reverse that decision.
A petition drive is still underway and so far 1,200 signatures have been collected. Both state representatives from Lee and Boone Counties are in Springfield this week pushing for Gov. Blagojevich to reconsider.