Illinois budget cuts threaten independence of people with disabilities

Ann Ford, Executive Director, Charlotte Cronin, Executive Director, Tony Zipple, CEO
A few weeks ago, Illinois announced millions of dollars in cuts to programs that support people with disabilities living independently in their own homes and communities. Statewide, the community is organizing to stop the cuts. Community based programs support the independence of people with disabilities and make fiscal sense — community services cost less than institutional services.

Below is a letter published in the Chicago Tribune on July 12.

The Chicago Tribune Voice of the People ran the piece below on Monday, July 12, 2010

Common sense, people with disabilities, under attack in Illinois.

Illinois’ progress toward a more cost effective and just approach to serving people with disabilities and their families took a major blow last week when Governor Quinn announced more than $300 million in budget cuts to programs for the disabled. That’s a full 20 percent of the total reductions in the state budget. The Governor is faced with balancing many difficult budget demands, but this decision hurts both taxpayers and people with disabilities.

When is a budget cut not a budget cut? The answer is when the least costly and most effective services are cut, leaving only outmoded, expensive and politically entrenched approaches.

In this case, that means programs that serve people in their own homes and in community settings are being slashed while the state continues to pour money into expensive nursing homes and state-run institutions that keep people with disabilities trapped in a state of unwanted and unnecessary dependence. That defies common sense.

Community-living and support options work and are paying off for taxpayers. We know now that today everyone can be supported in his or her community.

And we know that programs that serve people in their community save money. A 2010 report by the Illinois Human Services Commission found that Illinois provided community-based mental health services to 175,000 people at a cost of $390 million in FY 2010, half the cost of $640 million for only 15,000 nursing home beds for people with disabilities who do not require daily nursing.

Illinois is one of the few states that waste money on state-operated institutions and nursing homes. Taxpayers spend a staggering $162,000 per person for the 2000 residents of eight large state-operated institutions.

We are your families, neighbors and friends. We want, and have a right, to remain in our communities. We do not want to be forced into nursing homes or state institutions. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this budget rolls back civil rights.

We need to keep programs that work and slash those that don’t. We ask the governor and the legislature to rescind these cuts and support:

Reforming the wasteful institutional bias in state spending for the disabled

No caps on home service hours, and adequate funding to meet demand.

Closing down the state operated institutions serving the developmentally disabled and investing those resources in community services.

New revenue to be applied to cost-effective community and in home services.

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