Disability Advocates Call On Lawmakers to Close State Institutions

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Going Home Campaign Outlines Path for Closures and $337 Million Savings for Taxpayers

Bill Bogdan, Chairman, Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities

A group of leaders in disability rights joined together at a press conference today to call on Governor Bruce Rauner and Illinois lawmakers to close six out of seven state-operated institutions by 2020. The plan entails transitioning 1,662 people with disabilities currently living in state institutions into a community of their choice, closer to family and friends. In addition to community integration offering people an improved quality of life, the Going Home Coalition says the cost to operate state institutions is costing taxpayers $429 million each year, nearly five times the cost of community integration.

Illinois institutionalizes more people with disabilities than almost any other state in the nation and ranks third in supporting people with disabilities in a community setting. The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities has developed “Illinois at Tipping Point- Blueprint for Redesign in Illinois,” that focuses on bringing Illinois in line with the national trend and reducing our state’s reliance on institutions and improving access to community living opportunities.

In 2012, the state closed the Jacksonville Developmental Center (JDC), and with a thorough and comprehensive transition plan, successfully moved all of its residents into individual or small group homes. Since its closure, the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD) conducted an evaluation and assessment of the satisfaction of guardians and family members with the decision to close JDC, the process, and the current situation of former Jacksonville residents. The results include:

  • After the first year, almost 95% of the 115 former Jacksonville residents who moved to a CILA were still there.
  • Immediately following the announcement of the decision to close Jacksonville, 83% of survey respondents indicated that they were dissatisfied with the decision, primarily because they thought that the resident required more support than what was available in community. One year later, an overwhelming number of survey respondents, 92%, were satisfied or very satisfied with the former Jacksonville residents new living setting; and 87% felt that the resident was either the same or better off than when they lived at Jacksonville.
  • 85% of people living in the community are somewhat or very satisfied with their living arrangement

“These survey results show a significant positive change in the perception and level of satisfaction from individuals and guardians as it relates to transitioning from an institution into the community,” says Randall Owen, Interim Associate Director, Institute on Disability and Human Development and Research Assistant Professor, Department of Disability and Human Development. “One can conclude that most respondents would agree that community integration offers an improved quality of life in terms of care and opportunity.”

The proposed 2017 Illinois state budget calls for moving 50-people out of state institutions but advocates warn the cost of maintaining seven institutions is depleting funding that can be better spent by supporting people in the community. It cost taxpayers an average of $258,000 for each person living in an institution compared to just $53,000 a year to support someone in the community.

"The cost of institutionalization has gone up $10,000 per person since last year but the toll on the individuals forced to live in these facilities is far more significant,” says Barb Pritchard, co-founder of Community For All Coalition. "More than 90% of states have reduced the institution population for people with disabilities and 14-states and the District of Columbia have closed all facilities. It's time for Illinois to step up and protect the interest of taxpayers and people with disabilities."

“We can no longer afford to run a dual-system and will not stand for the inequality and backward thinking that keeps our friends and neighbors institutionalized. It’s time for Illinois to make a real commitment to people with disabilities and to allow them to be fully integrated into society,” says Gary Arnold, public affairs manager at Access Living.

Following the press conference, hundreds of self-advocates and allies hosted a rally in the Rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol and held an advocacy day where they met with legislators to talk about the importance of community integration.

Going Home is an advocacy campaign dedicated to full inclusion and equality for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Going Home steering committee consists of Access Living, The Arc of Illinois, Butterflies for Change, Center for Independent Living, Community for All Coalition, Equip for Equality, Family Transition Project, Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, and Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance. Visit GoingHomeIllinois.org for more information.

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Morgan Tomko
The Going Home Campaign
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