This Commentary is from Journal Courier in Jacksonville!


Commentary: JDC decision is a step forward

When Gove. Pat Quinn took office in 2009, the state of Illinois operated nine state-operated developmental centers/large institutions for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Nevermind that 14 other reform-minded states have already moved forward to close institutions and invest in community care, which numerous studies show provide a higher quality of life for our citizens with disabilities.

Illinois was lagging behind.

Fortunately for all citizens, that time is now behind us.

On Tuesday, the Health Facilities Services and Review Board voted to move forward with the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center. Under Gov. Quinn’s leadership, one SODC has closed and 600 individuals will transition into community settings over the next couple of years.

Gov. Quinn and the Illinois Department of Human Services are taking a historic step forward in the rebalancing initiative that will increase community care options for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness and reduce the number of out-dated institutions in the state.

IDHS has worked closely with families and guardians on a person-centered planning process that ensures safe transitions for residents of the Jacksonville Developmental Center. We have developed a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan to transition JDC residents safely into the community.

Over the past several months, JDC residents have gone through a thorough planning process, including assessment, consultation with families and guardians and planning sessions with providers to determine specific needs and ensure safe transitions.

In addition, each and every person will visit their potential new home and have a transition meeting prior to discharge. Residents are only transitioned to licensed programs and will move in safe and appropriate means of transportation. The process of transitioning individuals out of JDC is going according to plan – it has been and will continue to be careful and deliberate.

To date, more than 80 residents have transitioned out of JDC and most are adjusting quite well to their new environment. The current census at JDC is 82 and about 40 residents are scheduled to transition over the next couple of weeks. Active and on-going transition work is being done for these and other remaining residents.

Some families and guardians have chosen to transfer their loved ones to another state-operated developmental center. As a result of those transfers, residents of the impacted SODCs will then have the opportunity to move into the community.

The governor’s initiative to rebalance the state’s approach to care for individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions is designed to better align Illinois with the national trends, standards and expectations in the delivery of services.

Numerous studies show that individuals living in the community have a better quality of life than those living in institutions. Community settings allow individuals to receive the care they need, including 24-hour care. Community care is also significantly less costly than institution-based care. The average cost for JDC is $200,000 a year a resident while the average cost for a JDC resident living in the community is $84,000 a year.

Unfortunately there has been misinformation communicated by those opposed to the closure that can only harm the process. The fact is that neither IDHS, nor its contractors have changed client records. To do so would be a violation of both state and federal regulations. Any employee or contractor who did so would be subject to severe sanctions.

The staffing levels at JDC are above those of any other SODC in the state. Contract medical staff are fully trained and qualified and expected to follow the same rules and regulations as bargaining unit staff.

As we draw closer to the closure date, we remain committed to communicating and working closely with JDC residents, families and guardians to ensure that all residents are transitioned to a quality setting of their choice.

Kevin Casey is director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities for the Illinois Department of Human Services

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)