Disability Community Rallies to protect independence


Disability community rallies to protect independence

Calls for state leadership to preserve cost efficient programs and raise revenue

(Chicago) -- Facing budget cuts that could force people into costly institutions, disability advocates and organizations representing thousands of people with developmental, psychiatric and physical disabilities rallied outside the State of Illinois Building today. While Illinois faces a massive financial crisis, more than 20% of the service cuts announced last month impact people with disabilities. Funding for the Illinois Department of Human Services has been reduced by $312 million, the majority of which comes from community services, programs that support people with disabilities living in their own homes and neighborhoods rather than in institutions.

Community based mental health services face a cut of $38 million, impacting tens of thousands of individuals. According to a June 2010 report by the Illinois Human Services Commission, in FY 2010, Illinois spent $390 million on community mental health services for 175,000 people. Meanwhile, the state spent more than $600 million on 15,000 nursing home beds for people with psychiatric disabilities who do not require daily nursing. “People with disabilities have a right to pursue better opportunities and fulfilling lives in the community,” said Jessica Patrick, who receives community support through Thresholds. “But instead of living in the community, the cuts will force more people with psychiatric disabilities back into nursing homes, hospitals and prisons. If Illinois wants to cut spending, it doesn’t make sense to cut services that cost less money than institutions.”

In terms of supports for people with developmental disabilities, Illinois plans to cuts $98 million from community programs, impacting up to 15,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities. “We are astounded by these cuts to community services that serve children and adults with developmental disabilities,” said Tony Paulauski, Executive Director of the Arc of Illinois. “In the meanwhile the state institutions get their increases and we in the community suffer. Illinois continues to support state institutions at the expense of more effective and efficient community services. This system is upside down!”

Within the Department of Human Services, changes to the Home Services program will also impact how many people receive services in their own homes. Under Home Services, people with disabilities access personal assistants, individuals who help with day to day tasks like bathing, dressing and shopping, enabling people to live independently in their own homes. Changes to the program reduce the asset limit from $17,500 to $2,000 and limit the number of service hours. “Community-based programs and in-home assistance for people with disabilities save money for taxpayers. Cuts in these programs perpetuate wasteful spending on outmoded, expensive and inappropriate institutionalization,” said Rachel Siler, a disability advocate and member of the Home Services program. “These cuts take away the hope of thousands of people for full participation in society.”

To support the rights and independence of people with disabilities, rally participants urged Illinois to invest in programs that allow people to live in their own homes and save tax payers money, and to take necessary steps to generate new revenue. "Legislative leaders of both parties have failed to deliver a viable solution to the state's financial crisis,” said Zena Naiditch, President & CEO of Equip for Equality. “We need leadership now -- we have to pass a tax increase so that core services stay intact that enable people with disabilities to remain in their homes and communities."

As the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities act approaches, people with disabilities, and the rest of the population push for strong leadership to strengthen the state financially and empower people to live independently. As part of the rally, disability leaders called for a meeting with Illinois leaders to explore solutions that will save money and empower the community.