Disability rights advocates are continuing to make their displeasure with the recently passed state budget known, this time by publicly releasing a letter sent to Governor Pat Quinn and Michelle Saddler, earlier this month.
In it, Rita Burke, president of the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled (IL-ADD), warned that the state's eight developmental centers are being set up for failure, adding that by July 1 the facilities "will be so underfunded that decertification and loss of federal matching funds will certainly result."
Last month, the General Assembly passed the still-unsigned 2012 state budget, which will severely cut funding for the state's eight residential centers for Illinoisans with the most profound disabilities. Officials for IL-ADD say the 25 percent budget cut would amount to a loss of $80 million for the facilities located in Anna, Centralia, Dixon, Dwight, Jacksonville, Kankakee, Park Forest, and Waukegan.
In Burke's letter, she requested a meeting between Quinn and representatives from the eight facilities -- outlining the serious aftermath that could follow from the budget cuts. She also noted how the closure of just one State Operated Development Center (SODC) facility led to immense chaos and life-threatening adjustments for its residents:
We understand that your proposed budget fully funded our Centers and this budget is not your doing. However, the decision of what to do with it is yours. We want you to understand how high the stakes are for our family members and need to know what you can do to save them.
We believe there is urgency in this request. By July 1, 2011, our Centers will be so underfunded that decertification and loss of federal matching funds will certainly result. Our Centers will not survive. Our family members cannot survive without them. Almost every SODC resident has come from failed community placements. The community cannot serve our loved ones’ extreme needs nor protect them from harm, can refuse to accept them, and can expel them, facts to which many family members can attest in their own anguished stories.
The closure of Howe Developmental Center took nearly a year and 70% of those residents moved to other SODCs. Despite a seemingly cautious pace and apparent care in the selection of the next placements, thirteen people died following transition from Howe, possibly related to the trauma of transition. This budget does not allow for a cautious pace nor movement to other SODCs. The community which is currently inadequate to support extremely high needs individuals is also cut in this budget and will become even more ill-equipped to fill a void left by SODC closures. Where will our loved ones go? What is their future—do they have one?
You must be aware that the advocates for SODC closures do not need that level of care and do not advocate for those who do. ... There are budget cuts that will not cost innocent lives. Cuts to our State Operated Developmental Centers are not among them.
Some Illinois families are taking matters into their own hands in order to ensure that their relative is in a place where they will get the care they need -- and in some cases that means abandoning the state altogether. A recent report in the Chicago Tribune highlighted this trend of migrating to states with perceivably better budgets for disability services, like Michigan and Wisconsin. Check out this video from the report of one Broadview, Illinois family's story detailing how life changed for them and their disabled daughter after having moved to Michigan:.