“There’s no doubt that the state institutional model is a relic that should have been closed down in Illinois and other states long ago,” Tony Paulauski, the group’s director, told the Tribune.
Only in Illinois do we continue to debate institutional care. Big is not so bad. They’re better with their own kind attitude continues to be the “Illinois way.”
With adequate supports, everyone can live a full life in the community. We know how to do this, this story does not represent community services in Illinois in my opinion and it disregards decades of study on the benefits of community living.
Story from today’s Chicago Tribune below. Reporters have told me more stories will follow.
A TROUBLED TRANSITION
By Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan
Adults with mild disabilities were the most coveted.
In April 2012, as Illinois moved to close several state institutions and relocate adults with disabilities into the community, representatives from group home businesses gathered inside the Jacksonville Developmental Center for a hastily organized auction.
A state official read aloud medical histories of residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, prompting group home officials to raise their hands for desired picks.
Group home operators knew that then-Gov. Pat Quinn wanted to empty Jacksonville quickly — before any serious union or community opposition could be mounted — but some were taken aback by what they saw as a dehumanizing approach. “We were appalled by the auction,” said Art Dykstra, executive director of Trinity Services, the state’s largest group home provider.
The problems with Quinn’s rapid-deployment plan, however, went beyond mere awkwardness.
Officials from the Illinois Department of Human Services promised residents that group homes offered a new beginning — one that would bring them more independence, safe and compassionate care, even a private bedroom.
But those promises obscured evidence found in the state’s own investigative files that revealed many group homes were underfunded, understaffed and dangerously unprepared for new arrivals with complex needs, a Chicago Tribune investigation found.
In the five years preceding the auction, Human Services’ inspector general substantiated more than 600 cases of abuse and neglect in group homes, an analysis of state data shows. State investigators tracked an additional 1,420 cases that uncovered evidence of harm or deficiencies but did not result in formal findings.
The Tribune’s “Suffering in Secret” investigation, first published in November, uncovered a system where caregivers often failed to provide basic care while regulators cloaked harm and death with secrecy and silence.
Some cases of neglect found by the Tribune involved individuals who had been relocated to group homes from state institutions. Among the most startling: A man transferred from a state developmental center to a series of group homes died under suspicious circumstances in 2010 after he was forced to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor of a cluttered room used for storage.
With adequate funding and social supports, adults with disabilities fare best when mainstreamed into the community, widely accepted research studies show. Spurred by court decrees and a growing disability-rights movement, most states have closed some or all of their institutions and shifted funding to community-based residences like group homes. But in Illinois, not enough money has followed the people, the Tribune found.
Group homes have gone nearly nine years without an increase in reimbursement rates for staff wages. Overall, Illinois consistently ranks among the lowest five states for financial commitment to community care, federal records show.
“We’ve said all along the community system is grossly underfunded,” said Zena Naiditch, CEO of Equip for Equality, Illinois’ federally empowered disability-rights watchdog. “It’s been grossly underfunded for decades.”
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