State Blames Mistake For Scare Over Burial Funding

CHICAGO (CBS) — A letter stating that the state of Illinois would no longer pay for burial services for the indigent set off a wave of panic among Illinois social workers, but it turns out the letter was a huge mistake.

The letter sent out last month from the Illinois Department of Human Services said the department would “no longer pay for funerals, burials or cremations for individuals receiving assistance from the state.”

When CBS 2’s Jim Williams started asking about it, state officials said the letter was a mistake.

That mistake forced Joe Linstroth to pull out his credit card to give his friend, Walter Reed, a proper goodbye.

Reed was homeless most of his life, starting when he was only 15.

Linstroth said Reed was “in and out of some nursing homes, but mostly he stayed in shelters and on the street.”

Reed died last week at 77. He had no family; just a friend, Linstroth, his former social worker.

Linstroth said that when Reed died on Friday, he believed that there was not any money available to bury him because of the letter sent out by IDHS.

After getting the letter, many social workers and thousands of family members of indigent Illinois residents wondered how they were going to bury a loved one.

Social worker Judith Wood Mintz said she remembered thinking, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

But late Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said the letter shouldn’t have gone out because the governor didn’t want the program dropped as part of the state’s budget cuts.

It was a communications mistake that forced Linstroth to pay for Reed’s burial expenses out of his own pocket.

“I thought it was the least I could do,” Linstroth said. “I couldn’t let my friend get passed along and kind of dumped in a nameless hole.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Linstroth would be reimbursed for Reed’s burial costs.

The state spends $15 million a year for funerals for 10,000 poor residents. That’s $1500 per death.

David Persons, a worker at Unity Hospice in Chicago, said that money provides for :The most simple casket. No headstone.”

As for why the letter about burial funding went out in the first place, state officials have yet to provide an answer.

Social workers, their clients and others the funeral industry said Wednesday that they believe the program for the poor is dead, based on that letter.

The state’s going to have to do major outreach to those groups to clear the air.

  • Fed up

    So this guy lived off the system for 62 years without ever working. Should of been buried decades ago.

  • Tuuti

    There you again Mr. Quinn, you want to take care of all the people on death row now I see how you’re going to do it…you’re gonna stop the “BURIAL” of the poor people of Illinois to take care of those jerk’s on death row… I was wondering where the money was comming from to take of these (15) people for the rest of their life now we the people of Illinois see how it’s gonna be done… And it show’s now that you are trying to help the “INSURANCE CO” because if the state don’t do the burial of it’s poo,r they will have to find a way to pay for Insurance, so how are you helping the state of il? oh!! that’s right you’re helping the jerks on death row and the insurance co. of IL…. are you sure you’re not behind that Burr oak thing?!.. the killers live like kings and the way they do that… “you throw people in the garbbage when they DIE” I bet you pay for the burial of the jerks on death row…WHAT YOU WANNA BET?.

  • Tutti

    Hey Fed Up, Maybe this guy was sick all his life, you ass hole, hope you or your family don’t ever need the state for a burial, but who knows you might get the help you need, I think you are “BEST FRIENDS WITH QUINN” you think to much alike!.

  • Soylent Green Is People

    Pay me the 1,500.00 now and when I die, make me into Soylent Green Crackers.

  • Eric

    anyone heard of cremation for the guy who died im sorry buy why does he need a casket that no one will see he burnt his bridges and now its his turn why should the state continue to pay his way after death further burdening the state and tax payers

  • Berger

    How come Cook County buries unclaimed bodies for less than $300 but the State pays $1,500?

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