The year 2015 was not without its challenges as we continue to advocate for supports and services for individual with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Here is a list of what I believe to be some of the major disability issues in Illinois.
Governor Rauner. The election of Governor Rauner tops the list this year. A new administration was voted in replacing Governor Quinn. Because of the budget crisis, many disability positions like rebalancing remain unknown with the new administration at this time.
No state budget. The result of the budget crisis has left human services and grant programs dangling in the wind with some going out of business. Maybe in the New Year, when it will take a simple majority to pass a responsible budget, we will see the Legislative Leaders and the Governor reach agreement. One thing we do know is Illinois cannot cut its way out of this mess without new revenue.
Federal Court Intervention. Legal advocacy saves the day for developmental disability services. Equip for Equality and the ACLU prevailed in Federal Court to keep money flowing for the Developmental Disability System. Because of the Ligas Consent Decree and the intervention of the Court Monitor, day services, CILA, ICFDD, and home-based services preserve their funding in a timely manner.
Murray. The state institution in Centralia, Murray, remains open even with two homicides and sexual abuse! The Arc continues to call for the closure of six of the seven fully operational state institutions in Illinois which cost taxpayers $428 million or $250,000 per person to keep people locked up!
Staff Crisis. Staff recruitment and retention has become a crisis for developmental disability services. Providers are seriously concerned about maintaining staffing levels because of low wages and benefits. Many providers are hesitant to open new services for individuals who have funding because of their inability to recruit and retain qualified direct staff professionals.
CMS Rules. The implementation of the new CMS Rules for Home & Community Based Services promises to move the Illinois Disability System out of the dark ages, but without new funding how will Illinois move forward?
New Leaders. New leadership in Illinois as the administration builds its team, the Court Monitor retires and within The Arc. New leaders include:
- James Dimas, Secretary, Dept. of Human Services
- Felicia Norwood, Director, Dept. of Health Care & Family Services
- Greg Fenton, Director, Division of Developmental Disabilities
- Kris Smith, Director, Division of Rehabilitation Services
- Ronnie Cohn, Ligas Court Monitor
- Terri Devine, President, The Arc of Illinois
As we move into the New Year, I look forward to working with you to advance our agenda of including everyone in community life!
The Arc’s Legislative Agenda for 2016 will include, but not be limited to, the following:
Budget & Revenue
This is an ongoing process each year. The Arc supports a responsible budget including new revenue and an increase in the state’s income tax. A responsible budget will include resources to support community living and maintain a stable workforce.
We continue to advocate for an end to the waiting list, closure of State developmental centers, implementation of the Ligas Consent Decree and the transition of people into the community. Savings on institutional closures must be redirected into community services.
The Arc will continue to advocate for increasing wages and benefits of Direct Care Professionals with the Care Campaign.
Criminal System and People with ID/DD
We will work on legislation dealing with the treatment of persons with DD and ID in the corrections and criminal justice systems and police training. We are considering the creation of a task force as a first step to working with various stakeholders such as States Attorneys, Public Defenders, Judges, Sheriffs, and DHS. We are talking with the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission about working on this jointly. The Dept. of Human Services is also looking into its forensic placement practices.
We will be working with the Governor’s Employment Task Force to implement Employment First. We are also considering the new requirements of the Workforce Innovations law recently signed by President Obama. We may consider a bill that incorporates some of its requirements into Illinois law, especially with respect to preparation of youth for integrated competitive employment.
We will continue to oppose Phase III Integrated Care Program, the managed care of developmental disability services.
We will work with the Illinois Assistive Technology Project and the Coleman Institute on a legislative resolution on the rights of people with cognitive disabilities to technology and information access.
We are concerned about possible changes in state special education mandates and special education cuts in Chicago.
In addition, we will work on national disability advocacy issues with The Arc of the United States.
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423