Last night in Hoffman Estates, the two Senate Appropriations Committees that work on the budget
for the Dept of Human Services met for a hearing on the PUNS Waiting List. I was surprised and
delighted that about 15 Senators and House members attended the meeting, including the Senate Chairpersons Kotowski and Steans.
Senator Kotowski in his opening remarks stated, “That we, as legislators, have a moral obligation
to end the waiting list.” All of the legislators expressed support to end the waiting lists and asked
about the Administration’s plans and costs to do so.
Representing the Governor’s Office was Michael Gelder and Mark Doyle. Representing DHS was
Secretary Saddler and Director Casey. Sandy Ryan represented the Illinois Council on
Secretary Saddler, in her comments, indicated the desire of the Administration to reduce or end the
waiting list within five years. The Secretary also informed the legislators that 700 individuals will be
moving off the waiting list in March. Michael Gelder reported upon goals within the 1115 Waiver to do
just that. Director Casey talked about the process a person goes through to get on the PUNS Waiting
List and the role of the Individual Service Coordination Organizations in that process. The Director
also indicated that they believe approximately 3,000 annually will continue to be added to the waiting
list as students exit from special education.
Representing the advocacy community in addition to The Arc were Autism Speaks Executive Director
Kerry Schlaack; Avenues to Independence CEO Bob Okazaki and Sheila Lullo from Clearbrook.
I talked about the 220,000 infants, children and adults with intellectual and other developmental
disabilities living here in Illinois. That a waiting list of 22,000 has a dramatic effect on the individual
and the family as they exit special education into a community without supports. I spoke of the
leadership of the Quinn Administration by moving people off the waiting list, 1,500 individuals last
year, and that this was a priority for the Governor.
I also stated that the start to ending the waiting list is closely tied to closing antiquated state
institutions and investing those funds into the community. This is the importance of the Governor’s
Rebalancing Initiative. Autism Speaks talked about a shadow waiting list and that the need for services/supports are much greater than the numbers on the waiting list.
It was a very good and productive hearing. It remains to be seen if legislators on the Appropriations Committees will make ending the waiting list top priority. All this in the face of the temporary income
tax increase coming to an end in 2015 leaving a $4.5 billion hole in the state’s budget.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423