After budget address, community urges the protection of home and community services

On February 14, disability community members delivered Valentines to Governor Quinn and his staff, urging him to protect community supports. Here, Helen Morley (left), tells a Quinn staff member how important community services are.
On Wednesday morning, February 22, a group of disability advocates from Access Living will traveled to Springfield for Governor Quinn’s Budget Address.

They made the trip to call on Governor Quinn and Illinois legislators to protect the independence of people with disabilities, and to invest in and build upon programs that enable people with disabilities to live and participate in communities of their choice rather than institutions. The Governor’s budget address brought mixed reviews. On more than one occasion he referenced a commitment to rebalancing Illinois’ system of long-term care, including a pledge to “improve the quality of life” of people with disabilities by transitioning from institutional services to community-based services. To back up the pledge, Quinn proposed the closure of the Murray Developmental Center. “Governor Quinn’s commitment to rebalancing Illinois’s system of long-term care, and the closure of Murray is a great step in the right direction for Illinois,” said Amber Smock, Access Living’s Director of Advocacy.

Though disability advocates are thrilled that the Governor committed to rebalance Illinois system of long-term care, it is clear that budget cuts will be felt by many across the state, including people with disabilities. In the budget address, Governor Quinn announced that, in terms of Medicaid, he proposes that the state “reconsider eligibility, services, utilization and payments” in order to bring it in line with appropriations. Also, budget details revealed that it will be more difficult for people with disabilities to access Illinois’ Home Services program, and people who do access the program may not receive the same level of support they once did. If people with disabilities lose the supports or can not access the supports of Home Services, they may be forced into institutions, which would end of robbing people of their independence and costing the state more money.

“If Illinois protects and invests in community-based programs, we will be strengthening our communities and we will be saving the state money,” said Smock. “We understand there is a budget crisis and tough decisions have to be made but Springfield needs to hear the voice of the disability community.”

Until the budget is finalized, Access Living and others will continue to visit Springfield to share the message of community and independence with legislators and political leaders.