SPRINGFIELD — At a time when the cash-strapped Illinois Department of Human Services can’t pay its bills on time, the agency hosted a $78,000 conference to promote “spirituality and ritual” as drug-abuse treatments.
The two-day program this month at the Hyatt Regency Oak Brook was funded through a $70 million federal grant and designed to help drug-treatment groups reach out to communities of color, the agency said.
But the June 2-3 conference has drawn bipartisan fire for being held in a mostly white suburb far from the areas it was designed to reach and for its unusual theme when other human service programs face the possibility of major cuts.
“It’s bad enough that we now have to scratch and claw for the money to help real people meet their basic needs,” said state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston). “These funds would have been far better spent supplementing the state’s existing commitment to hospice care for the terminally ill and their loved ones.
“I resent the department wasting precious federal dollars on some touchy-feely, new-age, hot-tub conference,” the senator continued.
I think the Senator nailed it.
A brochure sent to members of the General Assembly said the conference would begin with a Native American prayer, include an “African water ritual,” and involve singing, dancing, Korean drumming and more.
“We will rejoice in music and dance and the healing powers it brings to our communities,” the brochure read. “We will be serenaded by a Latina jazz singer and stirred by the youth of Culture Clash performing a traditional Cuban warrior dance.”
Tracey Scruggs, a DHS spokeswoman, defended the program. She said it did not involve the use of precious state funds, enabled attendees to earn credit toward counseling and teaching certificates, and trained people to “incorporate spirituality and rituals to promote health and healing in the communities we serve.”
As if wasting $78,000 worth of Federal money is alright. Of course this is indicative of the general attitude with Federal funds. Less thought is given to how to spend that money. The most thought is giving to making sure you spend all of it.
If your going through drug treatment and some counselor starts doing a Cuban warrior dance what is your first thought? Is this really encouraging you to stop avoiding reality or to perhaps to find stronger drugs?