I spent the day in the Capitol yesterday trying to get a read on where the House Appropriations Human Services Committee was on drafting a budget proposal. Truth is as of yesterday they are not very far along in its development. Yesterday afternoon was supposed to be the first working committee for all members on the Human Services budget. Although members and staff have been working on possible budget options for the budget. Chairman Greg Harris was concerned about their task of cutting $770 million from the budget that was proposed by the Governor. I was able to meet with eight members of the committee. Only 10 days remain in the current fiscal year so there is a lot of work to be done with so many major issues still being discussed without resolution. As I said Monday, the Senate budget proposal is much further along in this process.I wanted to also talk to members about efforts to keep Murray Developmental Center open. Please make your calls on the Action Alert we sent you yesterday.
Medicaid Expansion. SB 26 was approved by the House Human Services Committee today by a vote of 8-6-1. All Republican members voted “no” and all Democratic members except Rep. Flowers voted “yes”. Rep. Flowers voted “present” because of language in a 600+ page amendment creating a new type of mental health rehabilitation facility (SMHRF) that will utilize the IMDs. There was strong opposition to the SMHRF portion of the amendment from groups such as Equip for Equality, ACLU, CBHA, Access Living and others. Rep. Cassidy voted yes, but express strong concerns about the SMHRFs and would not commit to voting for the bill on the floor.
The vote on the underlying Medicaid expansion piece of the bill was partisan, with all Republicans voting no and expressing concerns about out-year costs and other issues. All Democratic members were supportive of the Medicaid expansion, which will cover persons who are low-income, but who are not currently eligible for Medicaid. Many have disabilities.
The House Amendment also contains moderate “fixes” to the SMART Act. These include (1) the elimination of the 500% Federal Poverty Level income eligibility cap for the Medically Fragile-Technology Dependent children’s program, (2) a relaxation of the provision in the SMART Act concerning wheelchair repairs (repairs under $400 would not require prior approval), and (3) clarification of what constitutes an emergency for purposes of allowing Medicaid to cover dental care for adults, including coverage for pregnant women to ensure healthy births.
The bill now moves to the House floor and, if it passes, it will require Senate concurrence with the House Amendment.
Here is a letter to the editor from the President of the Murray Parent Association published in the Chicago Tribune yesterday. I urge you to respond to this letter. Send letters by email to ctc-TribLetter@tribune.com or to Voice of the People, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Include your name, address and phone number.
Would you let your 6-year-old child be picked up from day care, driven three hours with a stranger, to live in a home he has never seen, with total strangers? Of course not, but this is what is happening to some of the disabled residents at Murray Center in Centralia, Ill., many of whom have a mental age of 6 years or less.
As part of the governor’s plan to close state-operated developmental facilities, residents are being moved under these conditions.
Murray is home to more than 250 of Illinois’ most fragile developmentally disabled citizens. The professionally trained staff members at Murray use their talents to help every resident achieve his or her highest potential.
Residents come to Murray with severe medical and psychological problems.
Many come from community placements where they were left to stagnate — drugged with psychotropic drugs to a comatose, drooling state, unable to communicate because no one took the time or had the expertise to see the special person within the twisted body, and with medical conditions that were left unattended.
With reduced reliance on psychotropic drugs with their debilitating side effects, and the rehabilitative/therapeutic care from behavioral analysts, psychologist, pharmacists, nurses, doctors and the consistent, mature staff, residents thrive and are able to use their abilities to become happy, participating community members of Murray Center and Centralia, instead of being locked away in a home that did not have the capability to care for their special needs.
One size does not fit all. For some community placement is best. For many others the least restrictive environment is Murray.
The closing of Murray is morally wrong. As seen through the closure of other such facilities, people will die.
— Rita Winkeler, president, Murray Parents’ Association, Centralia, Ill.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423