Advocates For Disabled Hail State’s Decision To Close 2 Institutions

CHICAGO (CBS) – Gov. Quinn says budget problems leave him no choice and he’ll have to close two living centers that care for people with disabilities.

But many living with disabilities say they want them closed, CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports.

Many disabled people — and advocates in that community — call developmental centers institutions that needlessly segregate the disabled from the rest of society. They say shutting them down would change that and save the struggling state a lot of money, too.

Mike Ervin has a form of Muscular Dystrophy. With home care help, he’s been living on his own for most of his adult life — something he cherishes.

“The main thing to me is all the little things, all the little decisions, everyone makes every day,” Ervin says. “When am I going to get up, what am I going to do, what am I going to eat?”

That’s why Ervin, along with dozens of disability community activists, has been pushing Quinn to move toward shutting down all developmental centers in Illinois.

They say there are better ways for the disabled to live — if the right state-funded support is available — whether it’s home help care like Ervin receives or living in a community group center.

“There needs to be a blanket system throughout the state, where people with disabilities can live in their home communities and be served appropriately,” says Amber Smock, director of Access Living.

Experts say it makes fiscal sense. Its costs about $53,000 each year per person for home or group community care versus up to $200,000 a person for developmental center living.

Quinn’s administration supports the cost-effective alternative.

“There’s a lot of debate and certainly concern that any transition be done safely and carefully and thoughtfully,” Quinn aide Jerry Stermer says.

But not everyone agrees.  Many AFSCME union members and parent groups argue they need the developmental center options to provide care no one else can.

Ervin says there may not be options for everyone currently, but he adds, “It’s time to start developing them.”

Some also charge AFSCME wants to keep the centers open to keep union jobs.

An AFSCME spokesperson says the union supports freedom of choice.

  • Joe Patroni

    These advocates hold a polly-annish view of the world. These developmental centers of SODC’s house aggressive, mentally diisabled people who are genrerally low functioning and somewhat incorridgible. They can not be housed in any communicty because they have no power or inclination to self-regulate themselves amd temd to function at a child-like level. Do we have to wait for the Jarrod Lochner’s of the word to act out before we throw them in a truely bad mental health facility, a prison?

  • Raymond Prudente

    But America spent $165.1 Billion in 2010, helping people of Iraq and Afghanistan. (total cost to taxpayer’s $3.4 Trillion). And Billions of taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars providing foods and medical assistance to people in poor countries. We have moral duty to assist less fortunate and disabled Americans.

  • Sadly51st

    It’s unfortunate that stories in this issue often fail to include complete information. Governor Quinn’s “plan” to close state facilities involves shutting them down in just three months. The state has 21,000 people on it’s waiting list for community services already. Closing the centers will not save money, and will not result in community placement for the people living there.

    Visit for more information.

  • Rita Burke

    Responsible reporting would require interviewing families/guardians of those who need the high level of care state operated developmental centers provide who overwhelmingly support SODCs, rather than only people who don’t need that level of care who may believe community services will benefit financially when SODCs disappear. High needs SODC residents will be expensive to serve whether in SODCs or in the community, unless they are underserved and end up in jail or dead or just fall off the radar screen. What eyes will be watching Illinois’ SODC closure tragedy unfold and who will report it?

  • freethepeople

    Good for ILL for moving toward the contemporary. There is no service provided in an institution that can’t also be provided in the community. Its time to stop segregating our fellow citizens in the name of ‘caretaking’.

  • Gary Arnold

    great story. Considering the cost savings, the quality of life change, and the fact that all services provided in institutions could also be provided in the community, it is time for Illinois to integrate its system of long-term care and create a better system of supports in the community.

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