This Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 photo shows the Tinley Park Mental Health Center in Tinley Park, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that he plans to close the Tinley Park mental hospital and a Jacksonville center for people with developmental disabilities, as he ramps up efforts to move people out of state institutions and into group homes or other kinds of community care. Quinn’s office emphasized that the goal is to improve quality of life for people who depend on the state for care. They predicted closing facilities in Jacksonville and Tinley Park, which together employ about 550 people, would save nearly $20 million. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Updated: January 25, 2012 2:21AM
I commend Gov. Pat Quinn on his plans to close state institutions in Tinley Park and Jacksonville. While this move is expected to save taxpayers $20 million annually, that pales in comparison to opportunities this will open for people with disabilities. This historic change in public policy embraces freedom, independence and choice. Our current system is antiquated. Only two states warehouse more people in institutions than Illinois and 14 states have closed all public institutions. More than 30 national studies show that community living provides the most safe and effective care. Yet Illinois ranks last in the nation in the number of available community settings.
Community living offers around the clock care and unlike institutions it allows people with disabilities a personalized care plan where they can live close to family and friends and be part of a community. This is about making sure people with disabilities enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities as everyone else.
Four state institutions will remain open warehousing 1,400 citizens. This is the first phase in transitioning people with disabilities out of institutionalization and into community care and one which we have experience. About half of those currently living in a community setting came from an institution or nursing home. They are proud, happy and productive members of their communities and proof that it can be done. We are committed to making sure every person makes a safe, organized and enjoyable transition into community living. Working with our partner agencies we have dedicated staff on the ground already working with families.
We applaud Gov. Quinn for including stakeholder groups like The Arc in determining a responsible blueprint to move this obsolete system into one that supports people based upon their individual needs. This is a well-thought-out plan and a victory for people with disabilities and their families.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423