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CONTACT: Lena Parsons, for Access Living
773-425-0725
parsonslena@gmail.com


Disability community fights cuts to vital services

(Chicago) - On August 28 at Access Living, people with disabilities met with representatives from the Department of Human Services to demand that the Illinois Legislature continue to offer personal assistant programs now threatened by budget cuts. Earlier in August, the Illinois Department of Human Services announced cuts to the Home Services Program as a cost saving measure. Rather than save money, disability advocates insist that the cuts will result in increased unemployment among people with disabilities, higher rates of unnecessary institutionalization, and the loss of jobs, all of which will cost the state more money.

The disability community organized the August 28 event in an effort to share stories of people personally affected by the cuts with representatives from the Illinois Legislature and from the Department of Human Services.

More than 30,000 Illinoisans with disabilities live independently in their homes and communities through the Home Services Program. The cuts, effective September 30, will steal independence from many people now using the program. The cuts include:

Reducing the asset limit to $2000 -- The new asset limit will force people not on Medicaid to either quit their jobs in order to retain services or withdraw from the Home Services Program. Currently, about 5,000 who work are able to access the program. The change in the asset limit will directly impact Mike Ervin, who lives in Chicago. Ervin, who has used the Home Services Program for more than 20 years, utilizes the program to hire Personal Assistants who help him with daily tasks around the house, like getting out of bed, bathing, dressing and cooking. Ervin works as a writer, pushing him above the proposed $2000 asset limit, but cannot afford the vital Home Services on his own income. The service cuts will force Ervin to either give up his income, or give up the vital personal assistant services. “All my life I’ve been able to work and contribute to my community only because the home services program pays for the help I need,” said Ervin. “Now, Governor Quinn and the legislature have finally forced me and others to choose between poverty and services. They are punishing us for trying to be independent. I’m both despondent and outraged about that.”

Reviewing Service Plans– The state also plans to review all current service plans. This raises worries that the State may cut personal assistant hours on service plans wherever possible. Rahnee Patrick, the Director of Programs at Access Living and a member of the Home Services Program, says reassessing the service plans may lead to eliminating people from the Home Services Program. “If the hours of people with disabilities are cut and they can’t get the help they need at home, they’ll be forced into nursing homes. Then the state will have to pay even more to keep them there.”

Eliminating funding for Personal Assistant Coordinators -- Coordinators help people with disabilities find qualified personal assistants and empower people with disabilities with their rights as consumers. Services offered by the coordinators are available nowhere else, and often play a key role, helping people with disabilities who require extra attention successfully navigate the system. Without the coordinators, some people with disabilities may be unable to find personal assistants and will be forced into institutions, costing the state more money. “Without a Personal Assistant Coordinator, I never would have been equipped with the skills to hire and manage a qualified personal assistant,” said Ken Jasch, a person with a disability who has utilized the Home Services Program.

On August 28, the disability community shared its concern with Grace Hou of the Department of Human Services, who also attended the meeting. The community urged the Department of Human Services and State Officials to preserve the Home Services Program and to support the independence of people with disabilities.

If, by August 31, the State has not agreed to fully fund the Home Services, the disability community plans a follow up rally.

For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 312-640-2199 (voice), 312-640-2102 (TTY), garnold@accessliving.org

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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.