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Prairie State shaves hours, staff

Prairie State
Legal Services

Monday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Number: (847) 662-6925 or (800) 942-3940


Updated: January 31, 2012 1:46AM

WAUKEGAN — Budget cuts have forced the pro bono legal service provider Prairie State Legal Services to scale back its office hours.

All calls are funneled through telephone counselors to determine if Prairie State Legal Services is a fit and which of the 12 offices the potential client should be referred to, according to Karissa Kienast, Prairie State communications officer.

Three telephone counselors were recently laid off and the number of hours the intake phone line is available was reduced by about half. The line is now only available Monday through Thursday instead of Monday through Friday.

“It’s really crippling us as an organization to lose those hours,” Kienast said.

The cuts are keeping the phone lines open in the noon hour, she said. Before the telephone counselors were laid off, the phone line was closed between noon and 1 p.m.

“We hope that taking calls over the lunch hour will make it possible for some of our working clients to reach us,” said Catherine Herrmann, managing attorney of Prairie State’s telephone counseling service.

There were 18 phone counselors. However, during the past 18 months, three left voluntarily and haven’t been replaced, Kienast said. Three phone counselors were laid off last week bringing the number of counselors down to nine, she said.

The call center answered 4,722 calls in October; 5,149 calls in September; and 6,043 calls in August, according to Kienast.

She said it was too early to know how the decrease in phone counselors and hours will affect the Waukegan Prairie Legal Services Branch. The Waukegan location has handled about 2,000 cases so far this year, Kienast said.

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