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Quinn Defends Plan To De-Institutionalize Mentally Ill, Disabled

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Gov. Pat Quinn (Credit: CBS)

Gov. Pat Quinn (Credit: CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn is defending his administration’s plan to move people out of state institutions for the mentally and physically disabled and into community care settings.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports, mental health care advocates and parents of those in state-run facilities have blasted the governor’s plan, which aims to transition all residents into less expensive community settings within three years.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

But Quinn says the decision shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

“I think it’s important that we put the person first,” he said. “The money of the state is going to follow the person. This is a policy I’ve enunciated before. We’re going to implement it in a very positive, humane way.”

The Tinley Park mental health center, and a center for people with developmental disabilities in downstate Jacksonville, will be the first to close.

Quinn’s office predicted closing facilities in Jacksonville and Tinley Park, which together employ about 550 people, would save nearly $20 million.

In total, Quinn hopes to move 600 people out of institutions in the coming 2 1/2 years.

Last week, worker and a former patient at Tinley Park tell CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman that closing that facility in particular is a terrible mistake.

“To me, it’s difficult because we want to have a place to work, but the people, too, they matter,” employee Chanel Jennings said.

She was talking about psychiatric patients who need acute, short term care, which Lisa Guardiola needed when she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

“My road to recovery started at Tinley Park Mental Health Hospital,” she said. “If I didn’t go there I’d probably be out on the street.”

Quinn’s administration says community based care settings allow individualized attention based on the person’s needs. Critics say the closing facilities are the best option for some residents, who aren’t ready for community living.

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