On Friday the Chicago Tribune published an editorial opinion piece on the Governor's plans to close the Jacksonville and Mabley Developmental Centers in Illinois. While it is understood that opinion is only opinion, it appears that the author or authors of this piece have either not chosen to research this complex, multidimensional issue before putting pen to paper, or they are working from a political perspective that would prefer to ignore the available facts.
Several comments within the piece suggest this:
But if he follows through on at least some of these moves, he will make genuine, humane progress on behalf of some vulnerable citizens. (Emphasis added).
The Governor's plan is to attempt to close two facilities andmove nearly 300 of the state's most vulnerable citizens out of their homes and into different settings within four very short months. Successful community placement takes time, planning and money. The Governor has allowed for none of these, ensuring that transitions will be abrupt, confusing, and traumatic. In what way is such an approach to be considered humane?
The governor's plans would launch an overdue revamp of the state program serving the developmentally disabled… The governor has started to lay the groundwork for a responsible transition that takes into account the needs of families, guardians and residents, while phasing out an obsolete system.
This is blatantly incorrect. Governor Quinn has announced no plans to revamp the state programs, has laid no groundwork. What he has announced are rapid, unplanned facility closures due to budget shortfalls. The timelines he has offered will almost certainly result in the overwhelming majority of the people at Mabley and Jacksonville being moved to other, *larger* state facilities. This is what happened during the last two closures, both of which offered more than twice the timeline.
Is consolidation of the disabled into a few massive centralized institutions the revamp, the responsible transition the authors are hoping for?
We believe the community system has the wherewithal not only to serve those now housed in state institutions, but to serve them better… State employees of the centers could make the process easier. Staff could support the idea of moving, help match residents with the best possible community placement options and work diligently to assist in the transition.
The mission of the state operated developmental centers has long been to prepare people for transition into the community. However, responsible advocates for the disabled understand that there are no black and white, all or nothing situations or solutions.
With regard to the wherewithal of the community system, those directly familiar with the situation know that community placement options have always been extremely limited in Illinois, evidenced by a waiting list of some 21,000 people (a number which does not include the people in the state operated centers). When openings do become available community providers can choose whom they wish to serve and, understandably enough, they tend to serve people on the community waiting list that do not have the intensive behavioral, sensory, and medical needs of the people served by the state centers.
Indeed, this situation has been further exacerbated by the economic downturn. Governor Quinn's administration has followed Blagojevich's lead in dealing with disability service providers, withholding and delaying payments until many have been rendered destitute. Serving people with intensive behavioral, sensory, and medical needs requires a significant investment of resources. This made identifying appropriate placement challenging in the best of economic times. For the authors here to suggest, in the current economic climate, that the providers the Governor has already spent the past three years impoverishing will now be in a position to rise up and provide highly specialized services is the height of either ignorance or irresponsibility.
As has previously been mentioned here, there is no question that, ultimately, it is possible for the community to meet the needs of the people in these centers. This is, in fact, done and done well in other states. Unfortunately, the Illinois system has not received the adjustments that would be required to make those transitions possible.
The paramount consideration should be the welfare of the residents now in state care. They're a fragile group, and those with challenging behaviors and intensive medical needs should be treated with caution and sensitivity.
And on this point we agree. But it is impossible to fathom how responsible advocates, understanding this to be true, could suggest Governor Quinn's slapdash closure "plan" reflects anything resembling caution and sensitivity.