Your recent story, “Suffering in Secret,” challenges the Rauner administration and the General Assembly to make improvements to the way we support individuals with intellectual and other disabilities here in Illinois. The story points out serious problems within the disability system. We acknowledge and appreciate the finding of this series.

However, we disagree on the focus of your story pointing to Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA) as the problem. Make no mistake, CILA’s offer people with disabilities the opportunity to live full lives in the community, benefiting tens of thousands of individuals.

For decades, The Arc has advocated for moving away from costly obsolete state institutions and investing scarce taxpayer dollars into home and community based services. Those calls have gone unanswered. Leaving Illinois as one of the most institutionalized states in the nation.  Decades of neglect and unfunded programs have brought us to face the challenges outlined in this story.

Illinois can no longer support funding both institutional and community based services. Illinois policy should be to redirect resources to appropriately fund community based services and programs so people with disabilities are given the opportunity to succeed.

Recently Governor Rauner vetoed legislation that would have invested and improved the workforce in Illinois. Caregivers earn an average wage of $9.35 per hour making it difficult to keep valued staff. And just this week the Illinois House failed people with disabilities and their families by not overriding the Governor’s veto. Shame on you!

Illinois is at a precarious point. There is no doubt, we are able to improve the disability system with investments in the workforce, nursing services and ending the state’s waiting list. Forty years of research in the United States has proven that individuals with disabilities live safer, healthier lives hand they have more opportunities in the community. Isolation and segregation in institutions should no longer be an option in Illinois.

The Berens story “Suffering in Secret”, has identified serious problems but it also should remind Governor Rauner and legislators that Illinois can no longer continue to fund an obsolete institutional system at the expense of community services. It is time to close six of the seven fully operational state institutions in Illinois. It is time to invest those resources into home and community based services.

The Arc believes at its very core that everyone can live a full life in the community.

It is time for Illinois to step up and transform the disability system here in Illinois like they have in Indiana and 14 other states who have closed those obsolete state institutions.

We know how to do this. We are not willing to go back to the days when people with disabilities were institutionalized and segregated from society.

Governor Rauner and members of the General Assembly it is time to transform the Illinois disability system.

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Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
708-828-0188 (CELL)