CONTACT: Lena Parsons, for Access Living

Disability coalition testifies in Springfield on behalf of community-based services

(Springfield, Illinois) – Today, members of the Community for All Coalition will testify at the Illinois House Appropriations-Human Services Committee Hearing and address the State’s failure to support the right and desire of people with disabilities to live in the community. The Community for All Coalition, a statewide network of non-profit disability rights organizations, urges Governor Quinn to commit more financial support to community-based services in the State’s FY 2011 Budget.

“For decades, Illinois has disproportionately supported institutional care rather than community-based services, despite the fact that thousands of people with disabilities who have expressed a desire to live in the community and the fact that community-based services often cost less than institutional care,” says Barbara Pritchard, co-founder of the Campaign for Real Choice in Illinois, part of the Community for All Coalition.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities have the right to receive services in the most integrated setting. In 1999, in the landmark Olmstead decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination under the ADA.

Speaking about Illinois leadership, coalition member Rod Patterson of the Institute on Public Policy says, “Since assuming the position of Governor, Quinn has made a commitment to recognizing the ADA and balancing Illinois’ system of long-term care for people with disabilities. Yet, the proposed FY 2011 Budget fails to reflect that commitment.”

The FY 2011 budget includes a 2.5% reduction for all community-based programs for people with developmental disabilities. In addition, all non-Medicaid grant programs for developmental disabilities will be eliminated, resulting in a reduction of more than $28 million in services and the loss of more than 700 jobs.

While community-based services are suffering potential funding decreases, State Operated Developmental Centers (SODC), large institutions that house on average hundreds of people with disabilities, are scheduled for budget increases. The FY 2011 Budget incorporates a 5% increase in funding for all State Operated Developmental Centers, with some receiving up to $12 million in additional funding. SODCs are receiving this substantial increase even though the overall population in SODCs will decrease by 3%. SODCs are also receiving a funding boost from the closure of Howe Developmental Center, the institution where more than 30 residents died from neglect and poor care since 2005. Rather than invest the money saved from the Howe closure into community-based care, the State is directing the $30 million in saving from the Howe closure back into the remaining SODCs.

Despite the right of people with disabilities to receive services in the least restrictive setting and despite Governor Quinn’s supposed commitment to community-based services, the FY 2011 budget fails to support thousands of people with disabilities who choose to live in the community, and potentially may force people with disabilities into institutions. One reason the budget supports institutional services more than community services is an agreement reached in January 2010 between Governor Quinn and the labor union which represents employees of the SODCs, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31. The agreement ensures that funding and staffing level at all remaining SODCs will not decrease before June of 2011. “The agreement comes at the expense of community-services,” says Tyler McHaley of the Illinois Disability Activists and a member of the Coalition. “In order to meet the commitment, the State was forced to cut funding and jobs in community-based services.”

The Governor entered into this agreement without input or consent from people with disabilities advocating for community-based services and did so even though community-based service would save the state money. The average cost per resident in a State Operated Developmental Center is more than $160,000 per year. The service cost for a person in the community is on average $50,000 per year. Addressing the fiscal gap between institutions and community-based services, Jennifer Thomas of Access Living remarks, “It doesn’t make sense that a state struggling to resolve its fiscal problems would invest more money in an antiquated institutional system that costs more money per person.”

For more information, contact: Nick Quealy-Gainer, Campaign for Real Choice in Illinois – 217-493-5445; Gary Arnold, Access Living - 312-640-2199 voice, 312-640-2102 TTY.

Community for All Coalition members include: Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, The Campaign for Real Choice in Illinois, Chicago ADAPT, Equip for Equality, Illinois Disability Activists, Illinois Voices, Institute on Disability and Human Development at UIC, The Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities, People First of Illinois, Springfield Area Disability Advocates and Progress Center for Independent Living.


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.