Rockford Man to be Guest at President Obama’s Final State of the Union Address

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What began as a quirky personal element has evolved into a tradition for the annual State of the Union address.  Who will be invited as guests by legislators to tonight’s address?

For example, an empty chair will be placed near First Lady Michelle Obama to represent the victims of gun violence, meant to sent a political message by the President about his feelings on gun control.

Members of Congress can do it as well, and this year, a Rockford man will attend by invitation of Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL 17).  Gary Halbach, the President and CEO of the non-profit Remedies Renewing Lives is being invited both to highlight his agency’s struggles during the state budget crisis, and also Rep. Bustos’ efforts when it comes to domestic violence.

‘Remedies’ is a non-profit which provide services to domestic violence victims and also drug addicts, mostly those addicted to herion.  According to Bustos’ office, the state provides about $400,000 in annual funding for ‘Remedies’, and Halbach says for a time, they had to turn away women and children who sought refuge from domestic violence situations until funding was restored.  They are still receiving no state funding for heroin addiction treatment.

In December, Bustos voted for the Federal Omnibus bill, which she says included $480 million for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution programs, a record amount, $7 million for the anti-heroin task forces within the Community Oriented Policing Services program and $12 million for Justice Department grants for residential drug treatment.

More recently, Bustos went on the House floor to discuss the death of a Rockford man to a heroin overdose, and also the death of a member of her extended family, both of whom became addicted after taking prescription painkillers, and why she invited Halbach.  You can see that address here.

“I’m honored to welcome a leader who has worked tirelessly to help victims of domestic violence and individuals struggling with addiction to our nation’s Capitol, Mr. Gary Halbach,” said Bustos in a news release.  “… funding for heroin addiction treatment is still being held hostage. To help stem this crisis from the federal level, I’m very proud to have voted to increase federal funding for programs like Remedies, but we must shine a light on these ongoing challenges if we are ever going to solve them.”

The State of the Union address and Republican response will air live beginning at 8pm on WTVO-17 and Fox-39.

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