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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our View: People with disabilities deserve better from Illinois - April 27 2011 - Rockford Register Star

Our View: People with disabilities deserve better from Illinois
RRSTAR.COM EDITORIAL : Posted Apr 27, 2011

In the state’s proposed budget, the cost to keep one person with disabilities in an institution will rise to $192,000. And not one of the 21,000 children and adults will move off a waiting list for community services.

The cost of care to support one person living in the community is just $50,000 — or about one-quarter of the cost of institutional care.

If it were a dollars-and-cents issue only, it would be bad enough. But view it in human terms: A person with disabilities should not live in an institution if he or she can function well in a community setting.

Illinois has its priorities exactly backward, and the silence on the issue from the governor’s office is deafening.

Tony Paulauski spoke to the Editorial Board this month as executive director of The ARC of Illinois, an organization that represents 220,000 infants, children and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families. Paulauski explained that community-based services allow people with disabilities to be employed, perhaps bagging groceries, greeting shoppers, assembling products or working at a bakery.

Community-based services provide the coaching and training for these individuals to get and keep jobs. They offer the hygiene, socialization and behavioral help for a person with disabilities to live well with others. In addition, people with disabilities can live among their family and friends — who wouldn’t want that?

Even so, the proposed state budget invests $30 million in state institutions while cutting community services by $76.3 million.

Is it any wonder why Illinois is ranked 51st in the nation for supporting citizens in their communities?

The ARC’s Paulauski testified at a Senate Human Services appropriation hearing April 12 that Illinois has 840 caregivers 80 years of age and older whose adult children with disabilities remain on the waiting list for community-based services. It has 1,542 caregivers, 70 to 79 years old, waiting for the same.

We fear they may die waiting, leaving their loved ones to be placed in institutions. It’s a terrible legacy for our state — one that we don’t have to tolerate.

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