Commentary: Facts supporting JDC’s closure are overwhelming

October 22, 2011

Advocates, NEWS

The Jacksonville, Ill Journal Courier – Oct. 22, 2011 – William L. Gorman –

A public hearing concerning the proposed closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center will be held Monday at 5 p.m. at Illinois College’s Bruner Fitness Center.

The purpose of the meeting is for the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to hear testimony from individuals representing the Illinois Department of Human Services, elected officials, health organizations, employee organizations, advocacy groups and the general public.

To highlight some arguments for and against the closure of the center, Illinois Rep. Jim Watson and William L. Gorman, executive director of Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois, have written opposing editorials for the Journal-Courier.

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Governor Quinn has proposed the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center based on fiscal reasons. There are times when a fiscal crisis can provide an opportunity to do the right thing and also save money. This is one of them.

The Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois supports the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center. The facts to support closure are overwhelming. Fourteen states have already closed all of their state institutions. Illinois institutionalizes more people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities than 48 other states with our eight state developmental centers.

All of the national studies conducted regarding Illinois’ developmental disability system clearly state the need to move away from institutional spending and invest in community services.

Numerous national studies indicate that the vast majority of parents changed their attitudes about community living after their family member had moved to the community. After experiencing community living, parents viewed the institution less positively than they did when their family member lived there. Parents observed improved quality of life and relationships for their family member after the move out of the institution. Overall, individuals served in the community are safer, healthier and have a better quality of life than individuals living in institutions.

We understand the fears of parents who have a loved one residing at Jacksonville; however, with adequate transition funding, services can be provided in the community to meet their needs. Yes, with some previous closures of institutions, a small number of individuals have returned to a state institution. However, this was not a failure of the individual but a failure of the system to develop sufficient supports for the individual.

We believe that Illinois’ low rank — 47th in the nation — in spending on community services can explain these infrequent occurrences. We now have the opportunity to rectify this situation by re-allocating funds during the veto session, to ensure the smooth transition of individuals to the community. We urge the legislature to support sufficient funding to rebalance Illinois’ system of service provision towards community services.

The other concern frequently raised in opposition to the closure of the state facility relates to the loss of state employee jobs. The reality is that as jobs in the state developmental center are reduced, new jobs will be created in the community. Therefore, the net job loss will be minimal. Regardless, the right of individuals with disabilities to live in the community cannot be trumped by a potential loss of jobs.

There is a reason that 14 states have closed all of their state institutions and this is not based on programmatic or quality of life considerations alone. It also happens to be true that community services, in general, are also more cost effective than institutional services.

The average cost of an Illinois state institution is $181,700 per person per year while the average Community Integrated Living Arrangement cost is $52,454. In addition, the age of the physical plant, power plant and infrastructure at Jacksonville make it cost ineffective to continue to maintain its operation.

Therefore, in this time of fiscal austerity, how can we justify the continuing existence of this facility? At this time, can we not operate our developmental disabilities system with six rather than eight developmental centers?

We hear time and time again the need to reduce government expenditures.  We can no longer justify, fiscally or programmatically, the continued operation of the Jacksonville Developmental Center. Let’s rebalance Illinois’ system of services towards the community, close the developmental center and move forward.

William L. Gorman is the executive director of Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois.

http://www.myjournalcourier.com/articles/closure-35974-commentary-proposed.html

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