An interesting pattern has emerged surrounding the debate about the closure of Mabley Center in Dixon.
This debate is not a new one. But usually the sides taken up in the debate are divided between state and community service providers. This time around, however, the line of argument appears to fall between those with real-world experience in providing services in DD and those who operate primarily with only an abstract or philosophical understanding of the issue.
This was illustrated at the COGFA meeting for Mabley on October 17th. Many, many parents and family members took their stories to the commission. Over and over again they explained that their sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters had been served in the community, but that community providers had been unable to manage their needs. In some cases people had been in and out of community programs multiple times, but ultimately returning to state services because of intensive needs.
The response they receive from those advocating community placement? Your child/sibling will be happier and better served in the community.
If that response seems to you to suggest the listener has failed to hear what was said by the parents, you are not alone. Advocates for closure of Mabley Center repeatedly rely upon information about the developmental disability service systems in other states to support the idea of closing centers in Illinois. What they fail to take into account is the fact that, unlike in those states, the Illinois community system has not been prepared to serve people with intensive developmental, mental health, and behavioral needs.
IARF - the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities - is an organization representing "over 90 community based providers serving children and adults with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and/or substance use dependencies in over 900 locations throughout the state". In short, IARF represents actual community service providers in Illinois.
In their comments to COGFA they wrote:
...we do not believe the aggressive closure timeline of the developmental centers as recommended by the Department is conceivable.
The reasons the closures are "not conceivable" can be found in IARF's recommendations outlining what would be needed to successfully transition people to the community. Key among these are:
Recommendation 4: Develop community-based capacity to appropriately address the needs and wishes of individuals transitioning to the community. This requires funding to supplement – not supplant existing resources for individuals currently being served in the community.
Recommendation 5: Revise existing Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA) rates to cover the cost of providing care and clearly identify specialized rates where appropriate. Timely payment must be secured as well.
The board of IARF is comprised of representatives of multiple large and capable community developmental disabilities service providers. Clearly it is in their interest to have people's needs met in the community. They are also acutely aware of the actual state of support for developmental disabilities services in Illinois.
The people and programs with real world experience in providing community services do not support the governor's plan, do not agree with the advocacy groups who support closure. This, if nothing else, should give the legislators and the governor pause.