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Saturday, July 2, 2016

State of Illinois fails a "moral test of government”

Thank all of our readers for sharing the following editorial as posted by saukvalley.com. A real insight into so many of  Illinois disability community daily lives experience ....

Illinois spends far less per capita on disability services than other Midwestern states. The stopgap budget isn’t expected to help much.

opinion By the Sauk Valley (.com) Media Editorial Board | June 1, 2016
During the past fiscal year, Illinoisans were at the mercy of a state budget impasse that disrupted institutions, programs and lives.

For the past decade, however, the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been chronically neglected by those in power.

The consequences of that neglect make it more and more difficult for area agencies to serve the needs of people who, as the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey once said, are in “the shadows of life.”

The Sauk Valley Media Editorial Board spent an enlightening hour this week with Jeff Stauter, chief executive officer of Kreider Services of Dixon, and Brion Brooks, executive director of the Village of Progress of Oregon.

Kreider and Village of Progress continue to serve hundreds of area clients, even though “we haven’t seen any new money in a decade,” Stauter said. Kreider also supervises 30 group homes in three counties.

The underfunding has led to wages for agency employees that aren’t competitive enough to attract sufficient workers willing to undergo the required training and do the required work, which includes personal care (toileting) for clients.

Programs, such as respite care, have been cut at Kreider. Support for people with autism has been reduced.

As Brooks noted, “The underfunding has a lot of ramifications not from just understaffing but for the dignity of individuals.”

Both agencies have tapped their foundations for financial help, but that support goes only so far.

These private, not-for-profit agencies would like to see additional state funding so that wages can be raised and vacancies filled in their workforces.

They would also like sufficient funding so that the state’s “waiting list” of people with disabilities who need help, now numbering about 27,000, could be reduced.

Stauter and Brooks expressed concern that a stopgap budget likely would not solve the problems they face.

Stauter said such a budget would only be kicking the can down the road again, “which is what we’ve done since [Gov.] George Ryan was in office.” Ryan’s term ended in 2003.

Brooks said the average spending for disability services in Midwestern states is $133 per capita. Illinois, however, spends only $44 per capita.

How do state leaders get away with spending so little on persons with disabilities?

“I think it’s an invisible community, for the most part,” Brooks said.

Many people with disabilities are not able to have a voice in the debate. They are out of sight, and therefore out of mind for many politicians – even as, with more programs closing and more people with disabilities on the street, they likely will have more problems with law enforcement.

Stauter put it bluntly: “We just don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sen. Humphrey said the “moral test of government” centers on how it treats children, the elderly, and “the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

In Illinois, our government clearly is failing the test.

And it will continue to do so until the public demands otherwise.


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