In early September, Governor Quinn announced the closure of two state run institutions for people with developmental disabilities, including the Mabley Developmental Center. Access Living supports the closure of both institutions. In order to guarantee that people with disabilities transition successfully in the community, Access Living argues that money from the closures must be set aside to create a quality infrastructure of community–based services.
“Fourteen other states have closed their state operated facilities for people with developmental disabilities and it is time for Illinois to close its institutions,” said Amber Smock, Access Living's Director of Advocacy. Historically, Illinois has funneled a disproportionate number of resources into institutional supports versus community supports. High quality services based in the community are very limited. As a result, thousands of people are forced into institutions because other choices do not exist. Institutional closures provide an opportunity to redistribute services within the community, improve the quality of services offered to people with disabilities, and save money. Typically, community–based services cost far less than institutional services. “We believe that shifting the developmental disabilities system to community–based services will allow us to serve more people and serve them better,” Smock continued. “While Illinois' state operated developmental centers waste millions of dollars, 20,000 people with developmental disabilities languish for lack of services.”
Though the Commission recommended that Mabley remain open, Access Living will continue to advocate for the closure of the institution, and will support HB 3858, a bill introduced by Representative Sara Feigenholtz that is designed to shift resources from institutions into the community. The bill appropriates $20,000,000 to efforts to expand home and community–based services. “We understand that this is a time of great fear and uncertainty for residents, families and workers,” said Tom Wilson, a community organizer at Access Living. “The truth is however that community living is a civil right. With a disproportionate reliance on institutions, Illinois is violating the rights of people who would rather live in the community but cannot because options don't exist.”
Established in 1980, Access Living is a non–profit, Chicago–based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer–based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is a leading force in the community. Committed to challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers, Access Living is a nationally recognized change agent at the forefront of the disability rights movement.