Big Brothers Big Sisters closes doors

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Carbondale Times

A youth mentoring program first started 22 years ago will close as a result of the lack of a state budget.

Officials with the behavioral health care provider Centerstone announced Tuesday that they will close Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Illinois, which functions as a youth outreach and mentoring program and serves Jackson, Williamson, Perry, Franklin and Union counties.

The program operates mentoring programs in a handful of area communities, including a school-based mentoring program at Carbondale Middle School, according to the organization’s website.

First started in 1994, the local Big Brother Big Sisters organization began under the umbrella of Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, which merged with The H Group in 2012. In 2014, The H Group formed an affiliation with Centerstone, which made Tuesday’s announcement.

“Centerstone’s board of directors and executive leadership have been forced to make program, staffing and facility decisions that are painful to our organization and the communities we serve,” said John G. Markley, chief executive officer of Centerstone’s Illinois operations, in a prepared release. “We have warned our lawmakers for months that we could not sustain our operations and ensure our most vulnerable citizens have access to the services and support they need while providing millions of dollars in state services without payment. Unfortunately, our concerns have not been heeded, and we have no options left but consolidation that will help us ensure the continued viability of our organization.”

Centerstone also announced the closure of a facility in Jerseyville and the elimination of several open administrative positions.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Program Director Ramona Girtman did not respond to a phone message left by the Times at her office seeking comment.