Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed the closure of Mabley and Jacksonville developmental centers because of fiscal reasons. There are times when a fiscal crisis can provide an opportunity to do the right thing and also save money. This is one of them.
The Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois and the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois support the closure of Mabley and Jacksonville developmental centers. The facts to support closure are overwhelming. Fourteen states have already closed all of their state institutions. Illinois institutionalizes more people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities than 48 other states with our eight state developmental centers.
Numerous national studies indicate that the vast majority of parents feel their loved ones are safer, healthier and have a higher quality of life in the community rather than in an institution.
We understand the fears of parents who have a loved one residing at Mabley and Jacksonville; however, with adequate transition funding, services can be provided in the community to meet their needs. We now have the opportunity to rectify this situation by re-allocating funds during the veto session, to ensure the smooth transition of individuals to the community.
A supplemental appropriation may also be needed next year since the savings from the closure of an institution lag one to two years behind the closure. Rates of reimbursement for community providers should be increased to ensure a smooth transition for individuals leaving the developmental centers into the community.
We urge the legislature to support sufficient funding to rebalance Illinois’ system of service provision toward community services.
The other concern frequently raised in opposition to the closure of the state institutions relates to the loss of state employee jobs. The reality is that as jobs in the institutions are reduced, new jobs will be created in the community. Therefore, the net job loss will be minimal.
There is a reason that 14 states have closed all of their state institutions and this is not based on programmatic or quality of life considerations alone. It also happens to be true that community services, in general, are also more cost effective than institutional services.
The average cost of an Illinois state institution is $181,700 per person per year while the average Community Integrated Living Arrangement cost is $52,454. Therefore, in this time of fiscal austerity, how can we justify the continuing existence of these two developmental centers?
We hear time and time again the need to reduce government expenditures. We can no longer justify, fiscally or programmatically, the continued operations of Mabley and Jacksonville.
William Gorman is executive director of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois. Ruth Burgess Thompson is executive director of the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois.