It was standing room only today for the Commission On Governmental Forecasting & Accountability hearing. The hearing topic was on the Governor’s Rebalancing Initiative regarding the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center and the Tinley Park Mental Health Center.

Co-Chairperson Senator Schoenberg began the hearing by commenting that the Administration has used their perogative to close Jacksonville and Tinley Park, contrary to last fall’s COGFA vote not to support their closure. (I note here that COGFA is advisory to the Administration in these matters). The Senator also said that we would be hearing today, the latest updates from the Administration on the details that have been developed to close both of these centers and that this hearing would be reconvened in Jacksonville and Tinley Park on another date. Soooo more hearings to come.

Legislators expressed their disappointment that they had only received the planning documents late yesterday afternoon, leaving them little time for review. The legislators also expressed concern because there was no detailed budget for this initiative. They expressed a desire to see a multi-year budget for the rebalancing.

As you might expect, there  were many questions and comments about the economic impact on Jacksonville.

Co-Chairperson Rep Patti Bellock stated that this was an entirely new plan and therefore new Commission hearings were necessary for the closures.

Secretary Saddler addressed the Commission and shared details on the plan for the closures. She said the plan was the same, only with greater detail that COGFA had requested. She also said that this plan is sound public policy.

Director Casey and Mark Doyle then explained the details on the closure of Jacksonville. The Director commented that last fall he had similar concerns that COGFA had about the time frame for closure being to rapid and the lack of detail for the closure plan. The Director feels that this is a much more realistic plan driven by person-centered planning and based upon the needs of the individuals, not budgetary crisis. He reviewed components of some of the plan including:

  1. Person Centered Planning
  2. Individualized Transition Plans
  3. Planning Based Upon Individual Needs
  4. Input From Individuals and Guardians
  5. Individual Budget
  6. Monitoring and Advocacy
  7. Building Capacity in the Community

Director Casey ended by stating that he had done this many times in the past. He felt that it was his primary responsibility to keep people safe during the transition and to insure that the individuals moving get the highest quality of care that they certainly deserve.

Michael Gelder closed the Administration’s part of the hearing.

My comments to the Commission were that this was an excellent implementation plan that incorporates person-centered planning and best practice. This means that supports will be more integrated and less segregated. It is also very different from other closures because of the individual budgets people will have. This will have a very positive impact on the disability system. The Administration has put a lot of hard work into this initiative and hired an excellent team. This plan and this team will prove to be one of the best rebalancing efforts in the nation.

Tony’s commentary in today’s Chicago Tribune follows.


Community living

I commend the Tribune for its Jan. 27 editorial “A change for better treatment.” Gov. Pat Quinn is showing unprecedented leadership by beginning the closure of dangerous and antiquated state institutions. The easy thing to do is keep state institutions open and pretend that people with disabilities and compromised mental health are getting quality treatment. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Only two states warehouse more people in public institutions and 14 states have closed all public institutions. There have been countless reports of neglect, abuse and injuries in these facilities. Listen to the thousands of people who have safety and happily transitioned from an institution to community living. It has changed their lives, it can be done and we are here to help them through the process.

This historic change in public policy embraces freedom, independence and choice. Community living offers around-the-clock care and, unlike institutions, it allows people with disabilities a personalized care plan where they can live close to family and friends and be part of a community. This is about making sure people with disabilities enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities as everyone else.

About half of those currently living in a community setting came from an institution or nursing home. They are proud, happy and productive members of their communities and proof that it can be done.

— Tony Paulauski, executive director, The Arc of Illinois 

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)