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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Disability Groups Claim the State of Illinois Budget Impasse is Violating Ligas Consent Decree - Federal Court Ruling Agrees

UPDATE: by Jim Watkins, Aug 19, 2015 -- As shared by Equip For Equality that Yesterday, Judge Coleman entered an order in the Ligas case requiring the State to make payments to developmental disability providers.  As many of you know, the State had made no payments for developmental disability services since July 1st despite a court order in Ligas entered on June 30th30th requiring payments to be made.  The State had taken an overly-narrow and erroneous interpretation of who was covered by the Court’s June 30th order.  The judge’s order from yesterday makes clear that class members and consent decree beneficiaries are all covered by the earlier order, and requires all outstanding July payments to be made by this Friday.  Since many providers were on the verge of closing if payments weren’t made, this is a very positive development for people with developmental disabilities.

UPDATE: by Jim Watkins, Aug 12, 2015 -- A federal court ruling Aug 11, 2015 that the State of Illinois is not funding programs for people with disabilities at the level it should
.The federal court determined the state must comply with payments agreed on in a case from 2005 regarding funding for developmental disability programs. The court order requires the state to make all payments required under the Ligas Consent Decree, which requires the state to help fund programs for developmentally disabled individuals who choose to live in a private institution or in the community.
Equip for Equality of Illinois, an advocacy organization for the rights of those with disabilities, sued the state over the decision.
Barry Taylor, vice president of civil rights for Equip for Equality, said the organization sued to get funding for all those who are usually funded by the agreement.
“The comptroller took the position that she could not fund these if there wasn’t a budget appropriation or a court order,” Taylor said. “The judge in our case issued an order that the comptroller should continue providing payment so people with disabilities can receive services they’ve previously been receiving.”
The state argued that order only covered certain programs and people.
While the state did change its position late Monday and agreed to fund all the programs, Taylor said the judge still ordered an agreement be written detailing the state’s commitment.
“It would have been devastating if the state didn’t make all the payments it was supposed to be making,” Taylor said. “They have started to process the payments immediately. The order is going to provide the specific dates that the state has to make the payments [it hasn’t] made.”
“Promises have been made in the past. Until we see the money, we’ll be holding our breath. We’re not going to overreact,” he said.
While not all services are being covered this will allow for many organizations, and individuals to have the services they were promised, and afforded under the  Ligas Consent Decree.

####Court to hear arguments on one budget cutback; advocates for developmentally disabled say state violating consent decreeIllinois News Network | by MARK FITTON | AUGUST 10, 2015 

#(we will update information as it becomes available)

SPRINGFIELD — Lawyers for the developmentally disabled, care providers and the state are to to meet in federal court Tuesday morning over whether the state is meeting its obligations under consent decree rising from a 2005 lawsuit.

Advocates including Equip for Equality and the American Civil Liberties Union on Aug. 6 filed a complaint contending the state is not fulfilling the terms of the Ligas Consent Decree.

Because of the current budget impasse, on June 30 U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman entered an agreed order that said state comptroller would continue to make all payments required under the Ligas decree at a level no less than that of fiscal year 2015, according to Equip for Equality.

The group, however, says that on July 23 the Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, James Dimas, sent a letter to service providers notifying them that Illinois would fund services only for class members, not for other beneficiaries of the consent decree.

The plaintiffs contend both class members and non-class members choosing to remain in the intermediate care facilities are guaranteed that “funding for services for each Individual with developmental disabilities will be based on the Individual’s needs using federally approved objective criteria regardless of whether the Individual chooses to receive services in an (intermediate care facility) or in a community-based setting.”

They also say the decree foresaw the possibility of future budget issues and obligated the state to fully implement the terms of the decree regardless of such issues.

They argue Coleman’s order of June 30 is clear, that the comptroller must make “all payments for all services, programs, and personnel…necessary to comply with the consent decree and implementation plan.”

The matter is scheduled for an 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, hearing before Coleman in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Barry Taylor, attorney for Equip for Equality, said the number of people affected by the ruling exceeds 10,000.

Ronnie Cohn, the court-appointed monitor in the case, filed a statement supporting the plaintiffs’ position.

“Individuals with developmental disabilities face immediate and permanent injury if they do not receive the daily care and support that they need,” Cohn said. “Many of these individuals cannot feed, clothe, bathe or use the toilets themselves; they rely on the direct care staff of their (facility or living arrangement).

“With the state’s proposed reduction, most providers will soon be unable to continue operating, which would cause permanent harm both class members and non-class members who they serve,” Cohn wrote.

The Ligas lawsuit, named for the principal plaintiff, Stanley Ligas, was filed against the director of the state’s Department of Human Services in 2005 by nine people with developmental disabilities who resided in large, private, state-funded facilities or who were likely to be placed in such facilities.

The plaintiffs had, without success, sought community-based services.

The consent decree eventually issued helped bring Illinois in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires people with disabilities be allowed to live in the “most integrated setting” possible.

Neither the attorney general’s office nor the Department of Human Services had any comment on the case Monday.

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