Governor Quinn's September 8th announcement to close large institutions for people with disabilities indicates an opportunity to rebalance Illinois' system of long–term care. But closing institutions can not be done strictly as a budget cutting move. More than anyone else, the decision to close institutions impacts people with disabilities. In order to guarantee that people with disabilities transition successfully in the community, money from the closures must be set aside to create a quality infrastructure of community–based services. With quality services in place, people with disabilities will have the supports they need to thrive in the community.
Similarly, the announcement to close acute–care settings underscores the critical need to ensure that people with disabilities have quality support services in the community. Large state–operated facilities are a holdover from the past. But Illinois needs to guarantee that vital, crisis–related services for people with disabilities remain available, especially during the transition period.
People with disabilities and members of the general population have called for the development of quality home and community–based services for decades. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision give people with disabilities the right to live in the community. In addition to the law, community–based services typically are less expensive than institutional services, and the majority of people with disabilities want the option to live in the community. Nevertheless, Illinois has traditionally invested a majority of resources into institutional care for people with disabilities. Closing large institutions for people with disabilities is an opportunity to reverse Illinois' institutional bias.
At the news conference on September 8 to announce the closures, Governor Quinn said, “We believe in the Olmstead decision.” Access Living applauds Governor Quinn's endorsement of the Olmstead decision. Access Living applauds legislators like Illinois Senator Kirk Dillard who, on Chicago Tonight on September 6, said the money has to follow the person with a disability from the institution into the community. Access Living is eager to work with Governor Quinn and members of Illinois' General Assembly to ensure that as people with disabilities transition from large institutions they have meaningful services to live independently and successfully in their own homes and communities.
Established in 1980, Access Living is a change agent committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully–engaged and self–directed lives. Nationally recognized as a leading force in the disability advocacy community, Access Living challenges stereotypes, protects civil rights, and champions social reform.