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Monday, February 3, 2014

Great letter from Equip for Equality stating evidence that supports community based services for people with disabilities, in Illinois

as shared by Going Home: A Full Life in the Community ...

January 30, 2014

Belleville News Democrat
120 S. Illinois St. 
Belleville, IL 62220

The State of Illinois is taking positive steps to increase the services and supports that allow people with disabilities to live more independent lives in the community. This is neither an aberration nor some grand experiment. Rather, the state is joining a national movement aimed at reducing reliance on large institutional settings to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in order to improve the quality of their lives. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have closed all of their state-run institutions and are now serving former residents successfully in the community. Across the country there has been a dramatic reduction in census at state-run institutions as states move increasingly toward community based services for people with disabilities. David Braddock et al., State of the States in Developmental Disabilities 2013: The Great Recession and its Aftermath (2013). Why? Because it is well established that people with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities and complex needs, may be safely transitioned into the community and lead more fulfilling lives as a result. National Council on Disability, Deinstitutionalization: Unfinished Business (2012). Illinois has made modest efforts to join this movement, with the closure of Jacksonville Developmental Center and the planned closure of Murray Developmental Center, while keeping six State Operated Developmental Centers (SODCs) open.

Despite this progress, there are those who oppose closure of any Illinois SODCs based upon two common misconceptions—that they currently serve only those with more significant disabilities and that such individuals are not able to live successfully in the community. The experience of other states, however, dispels the belief that significant disabilities require institutional care. In fact, institutions have consistently proven less effective than community-based settings in promoting growth in individuals with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sheryl A. Larson & K. Charles Lakin, Deinstitutionalization of Persons with Mental Retardation: Behavior Outcomes, 14 J. of the Ass’n for Persons with Severe Handicaps 324-32 (1989).

The Governor’s rebalancing initiative represents a long overdue change in Illinois. Although change may be difficult at the outset, the experience in Illinois as well as other states shows that individuals who have transitioned to the community and their families are overwhelmingly satisfied with living in the community. The closure of Jacksonville Developmental Center and the plan to close Murray Developmental Center, with the resulting reallocation of resources into the community, are creating greater opportunities for people with disabilities to experience the benefits of community life. It is time to bridge the gap between Illinois and the rest of the country in providing services and supports for people with disabilities in smaller community settings. The evidence not only supports—it compels—this change. 

Zena Naiditch
President & CEO
Equip for Equality
20 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60602

FOR Equip for Equality: http://www.equipforequality.org/

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