Thursday morning, February 24, individuals and organizations representing a wide range of disabilities rallied outside the Thompson Center against Governor Quinn's proposed state budget. The advocates called on Quinn to rescind cuts to services that empower people with disabilities to live independently in the community.
Addressing the crowd of advocates, James Mathes, a veteran with a disability, spoke about what it means to live independently. Through the Department of Human Services Community Reintegration Program, administered by centers for independent living, Mathes was able to move out of nursing home and into an apartment of his own. The program is one of many services threatened to be cut or reduced under Governor Quinn's proposed FY 2012 Budget. If the proposed budget stands, veterans with disabilities will not have the same opportunity offered to Mathes. “I had a chance to move forward,” Mathes said. “Others in my position also deserve the chance to move forward.”
In addition to the Community Reintegration Program, Governor Quinn's budget cuts will impact Centers for Independent Living, support services for developmental disabilities, mental health services, and substance abuse and detox services. In each case, the cuts impact services that people with disabilities need in order to live on their own in the community. As a result, the cuts will end up costing money rather than saving money if people are forced into institutions due to a lack of community support services.
“The budget bureaucrats are cutting the heart out of important disability supports,” said Tony Paulauski, Executive Director of the Arc of Illinois. “Family Assistance is being eliminated! Home–Based Services are being cut! These services support children and adults in their homes with their families. Instead this budget supports state institutions and protects state jobs!” While less costly community–based services are targeted under the proposed budget, State Operated Developmental Centers, large institutions that cost more to run per person, are slated for an increase.
Like Mathes, Fred Friedman, the founder of Next Steps, once lived in a nursing home. He now lives in the community with mental health supports. “We were hopeful that the Governor would expand community support,” said Friedman. “In fact, he has cut them.”
The cuts will impact service providers such as Thresholds, which provides supports to people with mental illness. “People with severe mental illness have a right to rebuild their lives with the help of the quality community–based care,” said Tony Zipple, CEO of Thresholds. “For every dollar in proposed budget cuts to mental health, taxpayers will be forced to pay at least two dollars for care in nursing homes, jails, and hospitals.”
For years, the State of Illinois has lagged behind other states in terms offering service options in the community rather than institutions. With all types of disabilities, the State of Illinois is near the bottom of the national list of spending in the community versus institutions. The proposed budget will not reverse the trend. “The State has a history of violating the Supreme Court mandate that people with disabilities be served in the most integrated setting – the community,” said Zena Naditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. “The state has already disproportionally burdened people with disabilities in its response to the current budget crisis. We implore the Governor not to make this mistake again and to propose a budget that will preserve community services, which are vital to the independence of people with disabilities and actually save the State money.”
Members of the disability community are calling on Governor Quinn to :
Eliminate cuts to Centers for Independent Living
Eliminate Proposed Cuts to: Mental Health Services, Developmental Disability Services, Substance Abuse Services and Detox Programs
Redirect increased money for State Operated Developmental Centers to Community–Based Services
Eliminate any new nursing home funding
Maintain the current asset limit for individuals in the Home Services Program (Encourage people with disabilities who get home services to seek employment)
Restore Circuit Breaker Program
Change ratio of Institutional money to community–based money from 70–30 to 65–45 by 2012 (develop an ongoing five percent per year plan to truly rebalance Medicaid long–term care spending)
Maintain infrastructure capacity of all centers for independent living to deinstitutionalize people
Fulfill service provider payment obligations
A broad range of disability organizations supported the rally, including Access Living, The Arc of Illinois, C4, Chicago ADAPT, Equip for Equality, Next Steps and Thresholds
Following the rally, members of the community attended a Department of Human Services Budget Meeting called by Senator Mattie Hunter, at which individuals and groups continued to speak out against the cuts.