PI Original Matthew Blake Tuesday July 3rd, 2012, 1:38pm

Disability Advocates Support Clinic Closings

Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close two state centers for the developmentally disabled has angered some lawmakers and the state’s main public employees union. But advocates for the developmentally disabled believe Quinn’s move will actually help the lives of hundreds of disabled residents.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close two state centers for the developmentally disabled has angered some lawmakers and the state’s main public employees union.

But advocates for the developmentally disabled believe Quinn’s move will actually help the lives of hundreds of disabled residents who will now move from large institutions to smaller “community care” situations.

“The smallness of the settings will require staff to attend to people’s needs,” argues Tony Paulauski, executive director of the Frankfort-based Arc of Illinois disability advocacy group. “People will be living together as a community so no one will get lost in the shuffle.”

Paulauski characterizes the closures as a long overdue move away from institutional care, though seven of the state’s current nine developmental centers will stay open.

Quinn announced Friday that the state’s Department of Human Services would shut down the Jacksonville Developmental Center on October 31, even though the Illinois General Assembly’s budget for this fiscal year included $29 million to keep open the facility.

DHS will also close the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, Quinn announced, on November 30, 2013. The process of closing Murray, which state lawmakers appropriated $41 million to keep open, begins once the Jacksonville shut down is complete.

Jacksonville has 185 residents and Murray has 274: Patients from both facilities would move from these institutions to community settings, meaning that they would only be living among a handful of other residents.

Paulauski applauds Quinn for implementing a system laid out last October where DHS has an evaluation of each patient and then transfers them to their appropriate care setting,

Amber Smock, director of advocacy at Chicago-based Access Living, also supports the transitional plan, but cautions “state dollars must be monitored carefully”, i.e. the money state lawmakers first appropriated to keep the clinics open.

That the governor went against the will of the General Assembly angered not just lawmakers like State Rep. Jim Watson, who represents Jacksonville, and also AFSCME, the union that represents workers at Jacksonville and Murray.

Not known is how the closures will impact these employees: Messages to AFSMCE and the governor’s office were not returned by early this afternoon. For other facility closures, Quinn has tried to reassign employees: The closures of the Department of Corrections and Juvenile Justice facilities were supposed to mean zero layoffs for state workers.

However, AFSMCE is also protesting the Jacksonville closure on the grounds that some families want their loved ones to stay at the facility.

The developmental closures come as DHS also closes down the Tinley Park and Singer mental health centers. Tinley Park and its 75-bed capacity closed yesterday, while Singer, with a 76-bed capacity, shuts down October 31. As with the developmental centers, there is a plan to transition these patients to community care.

However, Smock says that she is not aware of Illinois having any overall transitional plan for mental health care as it does for developmental disabilities. Another concern: Tinley Park was used as a mental health hospital for acute needs, and it is not clear what will replace that service.

Image: AP Photo/Seth Perlman

Comments

Perhaps some advocates for the developmentally disabled support the closing of state centers but many of us do not. Your story is biased when you lead readers to think most of the opposition is from the public employees who work there.I have a profoundly developmentally relative who thrives in a state institution because of all the services there and the security and stability he has. Community centers offer limited services and have a very high turnover of caregivers. Many of us who are parents and guardians, and other organizations who advocate for the disabled, want the state centers to stay open.

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