Access Living Response to Governor Rauner’s State of the State

State must support and invest in community based services

On February 4, Governor Rauner delivered his first Illinois State of the State address. Since taking office, Governor Rauner has announced that non-essential state services are subject to cuts in an effort to close existing Illinois Budget gaps. That announcement left many groups across the state questioning from where the cuts might come. Governor’s Rauner’s address did not answer many questions. “Governor Rauner has yet to define what is non-essential,” said Rahnee Patrick, Access Living’s Director of Independent Living. Patrick utilizes Personal Assistant Services from the Illinois Home Services Program in order to live in her own home and go to work every day. “It is clear that services that keep individuals out of institutions and that support people in their own homes are essential to the independence of people with disabilities and are essential to sound fiscal policy.”

As agencies that are staffed by people with disabilities and that deliver services that support the independence of people with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living are also essential to the stability of Illinois. There are more than 20 Centers for Independent Living across Illinois. Independent Living Center are the only organizations across Illinois that are staffed by people with disabilities, and that equip people with disabilities with the tools to be independent. Without state services that enable people with disabilities to be independent, and without Centers for Independent Living to deliver those services, thousands of people with disabilities across Illinois would either remain in institutions, would return to institutions, or would be forced into hospitals for services that could have been delivered at home, costing Illinois thousands of dollars more per person compared to the cost of supporting someone in a community-based setting.

In his State of the State Address, Governor Rauner mentioned that “too many people in our community must overcome hidden barriers.” Every day, Centers for Independent Living like Access Living equip people with disabilities with the tools to navigate barriers to independence. In Fiscal Year 2014, Access Living served directly more than 1,200 people with disabilities. From locating accessible housing for an individual transitioning out of a nursing home, to training qualified personal assistants that support people with disabilities in their own homes, to staffing workshops that equip people with disabilities with practical skills, Access Living services prepare people with disabilities to be active in and contribute to their communities.

“The Illinois Home Services Program, the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, the Community Care Program, and the Illinois Medicaid Program are just a few of the State programs that support the independence of people with disabilities,” Patrick said. “These services, along with affordable housing and mental health community services are vital to Illinois. They cost less than institutional services and they enable people to thrive in communities of their own choice.” Cuts to these programs would leave people with disabilities without necessary supports to be independent, possibly forcing people into costly institutions and forcing people to rely upon costly safety net services.

Governor Rauner also said that Illinois “must choose to see the big picture.” The big picture must include services that allow people to live in less expensive community based settings. While the Governor and the State of Illinois search for solutions to address budget deficits, the answers will not be found in cuts to services that support the independence of people with disabilities. Access Living supports a solution that ensures the Illinois State Budget addresses its liabilities and prevents damaging cuts to community based services. Services that support the independence of people with disabilities are necessary for the fiscal rebound of Illinois. They make economic sense and they make common sense.

For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 312-640-2199 voice, 773-425-2536 (mobile) garnold@accessliving.org