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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

State of Illinois budget cuts worry agencies for disabled - April 20 2011 ChgoTrib

(click headline for ChgoTrib) or http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-x-w-cicero-seguin-20110420,0,5528185,full.story

Chicago Tribune article:
State of Illinois budget cuts worry agencies for disabled
Nonprofit groups brace for drop in Medicaid funds
By Joseph Ruzich, Special to the Tribune; April 20, 2011

Cicero resident Tina Harbus has been a participant at Seguin Services' day program for adults with developmental disabilities for more than 20 years. For the past two, she has been working at the agency's garden and gift store, spending much of her time in a greenhouse taking care of plants.

"I like plants," said Harbus, 41, who lives with her elderly mother. "It gives me something to do."

For Harbus and people with developmental disabilities, not-for-profit agencies like Seguin provide a unique support system that enables them to be productive and valued members of society, according to advocacy groups.

But many agencies, including Seguin, fear lawmakers in cash-strapped Illinois will move forward with a proposal to cut Medicaid-based services, leaving some adult programs and services at risk.

In February, Gov. Pat Quinn proposed a budget that would cut $76 million from the Division of Developmental Disabilities for the 2012 fiscal year. That would be about a 6 percent cut to Medicaid-based services for Seguin and other similar agencies. But several state-operated institutions would receive substantial funding boosts, driven primarily by payroll increases, officials said.

Two other budget proposals from legislators have come to the floor of the Capitol since Quinn's. They call for more cuts to the overall budget than proposed by the governor, but they have not been specific on what would be slashed.

Seguin officials said Quinn's cuts alone would affect three of their Medicaid-based adult programs — community integrated living arrangements, developmental life-skills training and community supported employment.

"We're very concerned," said Jim Haptonstahl, senior vice president of Seguin Foundation. "The cuts would be a minimum loss of $600,000 in funding for Seguin. If we are faced with the cuts and feel that operating with less money endangers our participants, we may have no choice but to consider discharging some participants."

Haptonstahl's comments were echoed throughout the area.

Bob Okazaki, executive director of Avenues to Independence in Park Ridge, said a 6 percent cut would decrease revenue by $180,000. "We may have no choice but to drop a half a dozen participants," said Okazaki, whose agency has 204 participants and 88 employees.

Dan Strick, CEO of SouthStar in Chicago Heights, said his agency may also have to drop clients. SouthStar would lose $250,000 in revenue, but Strick also points out another issue: "(The cuts) will have a ripple effect. That means some of the (client's) parents wouldn't be able to go to work during the day if they have to care for them."

Betty Jackson, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Envision Unlimited in Chicago, which is one of the largest in the state with 1,500 clients and 366 employees, said a 6 percent cut would mean a reduction of $900,000 in funding, which she says may cause the agency to consider limiting or moving clients to other programs.

"It's ironic because we (agencies) save the state money, but we're the ones getting funding cuts," said Jackson. "There needs to be some sort of rebalancing of state (funding) resources."

Seguin, at 3100 S. Central Ave., employs about 600 people, and almost all of the participants receive direct care from those employees.

The agency, which serves 400 adults and 200 children, receives 80 percent of its funding from the state. In 2010, Seguin received about $11.6 million from the state for its Medicaid-based adult programs and $8.4 million from the state's Department of Children and Family Services. It also receives some federal assistance, grants and donations from the community.

Haptonstahl said the last time Seguin and other community agencies received an increase for Medicaid-based services was in 2008 — a 1.86 percent cost-of-doing-business bump. He said agencies across the state have gotten no cost-of-doing-business increases in eight of the last 11 years.

Quinn's budget proposal doesn't call for cutting funds that would impact Seguin's foster care program for children.

Seguin also spends a large portion of its funds on its community-living program, according to officials. The agency owns 60 homes in 20 communities in the west and south suburbs, including Elmhurst, LaGrange, Oak Park, Burbank and Bridgeview. About 220 adults live in the group homes.

Those adults in the day program — which teaches life skills such as cooking, cleaning and operating a computer — are from several communities throughout the metro area. Participants come from as far north as Cary and Round Lake to as far south as Orland Park, as well as from Chicago.

Seguin officials also help participants find jobs in the private sector.

John Voit, Seguin president and CEO, said he's disappointed that agencies like Seguin will see cuts while eight state institutions for people with developmental disabilities will receive substantial increases in funding.

"There needs to be a shared sacrifice across the system," Voit said. "The money should be spread out more evenly to all service providers."

Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for the governor's budget office, said Quinn's budget calls for an increase of $30 million for state-operated institutions.

"These increases were driven by payroll, which is approximately 96 percent unionized," said Kraft.

Haptonstahl said most states have phased out state-operated institutions for people with developmental disabilities.

"I firmly believe that all of these individuals can be transitioned into community-based agencies," Haptonstahl said. "It costs the state almost two and a half times more money to provide the same services we do."

It costs Seguin $65,000 a year for each individual to receive housing and attend the day program, according to agency officials.

A study by Don Moss & Associates, a Springfield consulting and lobbying firm for people with disabilities, indicates that the cost to serve one individual at state facilities ranges from $123,788 to $177,865 per year.

Kraft says Quinn agrees that savings can be achieved by moving individuals from institutional care to community-based care. She added that they will "continue to work on transitioning more individuals to community-based care."

Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois in Frankfort, an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities, said the proposed cuts to agencies would be devastating.

"It's an upside-down budget that really only impacts people with disabilities," Paulauski said. "It's the unions; I guess they've got to have their pay raises."

Paulauski believes the remaining state-operated institutions need to close down. There are about 2,150 people with developmental disabilities in state institutions.

"It's much better for them to be in the community setting," Paulauski said. "On top of that, community agencies will save taxpayers a lot of money."

Seguin also prides itself on raising some funds on its own. The agency earns about $50,000 to $60,000 from its car wash and detailing center. It makes about $350,000 a year operating a used-car lot adjacent to the Cicero site and about $125,000 selling plants and gifts at its garden center.

Berwyn participant Scott Jaros, 27, works at the car wash. Jaros, who has a mild developmental disability, said this is his first job since graduating from high school.

"I'm just glad I have a job," Jaros said. "All this is pretty new for me."

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