The following letter was sent this morning to all of the members of the Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability or COGFA.
Tonight advocates will gather in Dixon to testify about closing Mabley Developmental Center.
The Arc of Illinois represents infants, children and adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
The Arc supports the closures of Mabley and Jacksonville Developmental Centers as long as the people living there have a safe and smooth transition to community services. We need to make sure that the necessary resources are available to community providers to insure that transition.
We also wanted to remind you of the editorial support around the state supporting the closing of state institutions and rebalancing toward community living.
The Tribunes’ Sept. 30, 2011 editorial, “Moving to Community Care” says it best by stating, “Let’s make a swift, smooth transition that provides residents with new homes that offer superior living arrangements and opportunities for personal growth. It’s time.”
I have copied this editorial and the statements from other editorial boards including:

  1. Chicago Tribune
  2. State Journal-Register
  3. Pantagraph
  4. Rockford Register Star
  5. Chicago Sun-Times

It is time to rebalance the Illinois Disability System.
The Arc urges you to support a safe and smooth transition to the community for the individuals at Mabley and Jacksonville.
Tony Paulauski


Moving to community care

State-run centers for developmentally disabled finally on the way out

September 30, 2011We suspect Gov. Pat Quinn isn’t entirely serious about his threat to shut down seven state facilities and lay off 1,900 workers to close what he says is a $313 million budget gap. The governor may be trying to goad lawmakers into borrowing more money to stave off these cuts.

But if he follows through on at least some of these moves, he will make genuine, humane progress on behalf of some vulnerable citizens.

The governor’s plans would launch an overdue revamp of the state program serving the developmentally disabled — people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other challenges.

Illinois’ treatment of the developmentally disabled lags way behind the times. Other states have proved convincingly that in most cases, institutionalizing people in big government-run facilities hurts everyone concerned and wastes money. Community-based organizations offer small neighborhood group homes and other varied options for care and generally provide better results at a much lower cost.

Up to now, vested interests in state government have thwarted progress toward community care, despite a history of problems with the state institutions. A scandal that brought to light abusive treatment and padded staffing costs at the Howe Developmental Center in southwest suburban Tinley Park eventually led to that facility closing last year. Yet the other eight centers operated by the state have shown remarkable staying power, at an annual cost of roughly $300 million.

Quinn has called for shutting down two of the eight centers. That’s a good beginning point, especially since it coincides with a plan to reduce the population at the remaining centers.

The governor has started to lay the groundwork for a responsible transition that takes into account the needs of families, guardians and residents, while phasing out an obsolete system.

One milestone: Quinn recently settled the last of three long-standing lawsuits aimed at forcing state-funded providers to offer less-restrictive options for care. The governor also has sought input from advocates for the disabled about how to manage the state and federal money available for a transition, establish a reasonable timetable and arrange for follow-up monitoring.

Shutting down these centers is no simple matter. It requires extensive documentation, public hearings and negotiations with union workers who have angrily denounced the governor’s plan. No one would be surprised if AFSCME were to seek arbitration or file suit in an effort to preserve the status quo and the entrenched union jobs that go with it.

Remember, during his election campaign last year, Quinn made a promise to AFSCME that the state wouldn’t close any institutions or lay off workers through June 2012. The governor says he doesn’t have to abide by that deal because the legislature didn’t give him enough money to pay for the institutions and the jobs through June.

Some of these institutions need to close, and as quickly as it is safe to do so. The paramount consideration should be the welfare of the residents now in state care. They’re a fragile group, and those with challenging behaviors and intensive medical needs should be treated with caution and sensitivity. We believe the community system has the wherewithal not only to serve those now housed in state institutions, but to serve them better. Still, it’s critically important to ensure that every placement is appropriate, and not force any that aren’t.

State employees of the centers could make the process easier. Staff could support the idea of moving, help match residents with the best possible community placement options and work diligently to assist in the transition.

We hope that happens. If not, this change will be more painful and disruptive than it needs to be. Let’s make a swift, smooth transition that provides residents with new homes that offer superior living arrangements and opportunities for personal growth. It’s time.

Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

 Editorial Support for Community Services
The time to reform and rebalance the Developmental Disability System in Illinois is NOW. These editorial boards get it!
Chicago Tribune, May 23, 2011
“Disability advocates say the state could save roughly $170 million by closing four of its eight institutions. This needs to happen in a way that’s least disruptive for the people at these institutions. But it needs to happen.”
State Journal-Register, May 22, 2011:
“For years, advocates for the developmentally disabled have tried, with very limited success, to persuade the state to move away from reliance on institutions and toward greater use of residential group homes and community programs for those with developmental disabilities.”
 “Illinois must move out of the dark ages in treating its most vulnerable citizens.”, May 22, 2011
“… the trend in recent years has been moving toward community-based settings – and Illinois lags far behind other states that have scaled back or eliminated state-run institutions for those with developmental disabilities.”
“It is a matter worthy of consideration – for financial as well as humanitarian reasons.”
Rockford Register Star, April 27, 2011
“Illinois has its priorities exactly backward.”
“Is it any wonder why Illinois is ranked 51st in the nation for supporting citizens in their communities?
Chicago Sun-Times, June 15, 2011
“For a state looking to cuts costs wherever it can, moving away from expensive institutional care is imperative.”
“States that have seen the light have moved away from warehousing people with disabilities in large, residential facilities in favor of placing them in smaller, community-based settings.” 

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