Friday, August 28, 2009

Disability Community Thanks Governor Quinn; Taxpayer Dollars to Be Put To Better Use

In a press release from the Governor's office today, Taxpayers For Illinois learned of the Governor's decision to finally close Howe Developmental Center in Tinley park. The institution has not only proven to be dangerous for clients but also a huge drain on taxpayer money.

The Governor will close the facility based on recommendations from both the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), who voted 9-to-3 in favor of closing the facility, and Anne M. Shannon, the former President and CEO of Aspire, who examined the issues regarding providing quality care for residents at Howe Developmental Center. In past months, Shannon met with more than 60 families of current and former Howe residents, advocacy groups, legislators and employees before presenting her recommendations to the Governor. On August 15, upon recommendation from Anne Shannon, Governor Quinn made an unannounced visit to Howe Developmental Center to talk with staff, residents, parents and family members, while also assessing the facility's operations.

Howe Developmental Center currently has 251 residents and 694 staff and the Governor is ensuring a smooth transition for these residents.

We are hoping this decision will be the first in many that help funnel taxpayer funds into humane, community care for Illinois' most vulnerable populations.

Please take a moment to contact your local papers to express your gratitude to Governor Quinn for finally closing Howe Developmental Center.

The Arc Mourns the Loss of its Greatest Legislative Champion


The Arc of the United States and all children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families lost its all time legislative champion with the death last night of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). His legislative achievements in the field of disability were many and far reaching. Civil rights, education and health care were the cornerstones of his efforts to help all Americans live decent and productive lives. In the rights arena, his most notable achievement was the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. He played an instrumental role in the passage of Public Law 94-142 in 1975 (now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which gave every student with a disability the right to a free appropriate public education. Senator Kennedy was one of four Members of Congress who, along with former President George W. Bush, crafted the No Child Left Behind Act. He was instrumental in assuring that all students with disabilities would be part of the student achievement assessments under this law. Last year, he co-authored the Higher Education Opportunity Act which, for the first time in Federal law, will afford higher education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. Other major civil rights accomplishments that helped people with disabilities enter the mainstream of our society include the Fair Housing Act and the Voting Rights Act.

As a steady voice for comprehensive, quality and affordable health care reform, Senator Kennedy pushed hard over his decades of Senate service to expand the National Institutes of Health, created programs to protect pregnant women and children, the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the recently enacted Medicare prescription drug expansion. As many have observed, his absence from the Senate this year has significantly hindered the passage of health care reform.

In his role as a member, Ranking Minority Member, and Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he authored the Developmental Disabilities Act, established Protection and Advocacy Systems in every state, and oversaw several extensions of the Rehabilitation Act, including the addition of Supported Employment and steady increases in the minimum wage.

Senator Kennedy was first elected in 1962 and served six terms. He ranks third in total service in the U. S. Senate. He was often referred to as the "Lion of the Senate". A consummate deal maker, many of his legislative successes were due to his ability to reach across the aisle and secure bipartisan support, sometimes with the most conservative of Senators. He was an electrifying orator, his booming voice resounding off the walls of the Senate chamber. Senator Kennedy did his homework, always exceptionally well prepared for his Committee hearings, bill markups and floor speeches. He was often noted as having the best and most loyal staff on Capitol Hill.

Senator Kennedy often described his interest in disability policy due to his family history. Late in life, his father suffered from a serious stroke. His sister Rosemary was born with an intellectual disability and was sheltered during her adulthood in a private institution. His sister Eunice, who died only two weeks ago, headed up the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and created the Special Olympics. The Senator's two sons also experience disability. Ted Jr. lost a leg to cancer as a child. Patrick, a U. S. Congressman from Rhode Island, has a mental illness.

Senator Kennedy spoke at several events sponsored by The Arc, most notably the Disability Policy Seminar. In 2001, he was the recipient of The Arc's John H. Chafee Leadership in Public Policy Award. Last month, The Arc's President, Lynne Cleveland, announced that Senator Kennedy would be this year's President's Award recipient. This award will now be given posthumously at an event in the near future.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thank You From Taxpayers For Illinois

In May, after a long winter of debating amongst politicians, social services agencies, citizens and families across the state of Illinois were thrown into a budget crisis. Eventually, many clients served by these agencies were denied services and agencies were forced to give their staff lay-off notices.

Thankfully, due to concerned citizens like you, this crisis has been temporarily averted. Over the past 3 months, you called, e-mailed, wrote letters, sent faxes, protested in Springfield and made personal visits to the Governor and your elected officials' offices. And for that, we want to send you a huge, heart-felt THANK YOU...our efforts as a community of providers, care-givers and concerned citizens were ultimately successful.

State funding has been temporarily restored for a majority of human service agencies through December of 2008!

While many agencies are working towards a model of service that no longer relies on state funding (and the political and draconian slashing of services that come with it), we are always in need of alternative sources of funding.

Taxpayers for Illinois will be here monitoring legislator’s decisions around support for this kind of funding. Thank you for reading and look for more info again after Labor Day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Please Call The Governor Regarding House Bill 237

This spring, the General Assembly passed HB 237 without a single “no” vote. HB 237 would include payments for all prevention, intervention, or treatment services and supports for persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and alcohol and substance abuse problems, as well as rehabilitation, and early intervention services provided by licensed community-based providers under the Prompt Payment Act. In addition, HB 237 would increase the interest penalty for bills under the Medical Assistance Article of the Illinois Public Aid Code to 2.0% (from 1.0%) after being delinquent for sixty days.

The 60 day deadline for action by Governor Pat Quinn on HB 237 is next Tuesday, August 25th. We need you to call the Governor’s Office in Springfield and Chicago today and urge him to sign HB 237 into law!

Please click here to take action!

Talking Points (if needed):

Not all payments for these services are currently “protected” by the prompt payment act. HB 237 would change that situation.

Community providers are currently experiencing payment delays in excess of 150 days, HB 237 would at least ensure the state is paying interest on those late payments – a common business arrangement.

By signing HB 237, Governor Quinn will be making a statement that he supports community services.

Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-0244

Office of the Governor
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph, 16-100
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: 312-814-2121

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Cared for "Forgotten Population"

As the State of Illinois continues to falter in its ability to serve its most vulnerable populations--at last check, several agencies were still waiting to recieve revised, temporary contracts that would restore only partial funding for the services they provide--the country has lost a leader in the field of disability rights.

Please take a look at the letter below from Timothy P. Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, in honor of his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver who passed away early this morning....

In addition, The Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law (an organization founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver's widower, Sargent Shriver) recently published this statement about the Illinois Budget cuts.

It is with a heavy heart that I write to let you know that my mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, passed away early this morning.

At the time of her death -- as it was throughout her long and full life -- she was surrounded by her family, her husband, her children, her grandchildren and those who loved her.

Though at the end her body had become weak, her heart was strong and it was abundantly full. It was overflowing with faith in God’s will. It was replete with a sense of contentment about the past and a deep hope for the future. It was full of love and gratitude for those to whom she had dedicated her life’s work and who had in return given her life the gifts of clarity, aspiration and friendship.

Her heart was full indeed of faith, hope and love. She was very much at peace.

As I write to you, her extended family of the Special Olympics movement that she loved so deeply, it is hard not to recognize that these same traits that sustained her at the time of her death had fulfilled and motivated her throughout her lifetime of advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities -- or as she always said, her "special friends."

Her faith in the athletes of Special Olympics was unfailing, even from the very start. When she was young and Special Olympics was still just an idea, few people particularly cared or knew about people with intellectual disabilities. Fewer still shared or understood her dream to awaken the spirit and denied potential of this forgotten population. And yet, though others could not see, she still believed, conceiving Special Olympics in her heart before she could unveil it on the field of play.

She believed that people with intellectual disabilities could – individually and collectively – achieve more than anyone thought possible. This much she knew with unbridled faith and certainty. And this faith in turn gave her hope that their future might be radically different.

Her faith in them allowed her to hope for an army of supporters – coaches, volunteers, donors, fans – that would emerge and grow and become the foundation upon which a worldwide human rights movement would be built. It allowed her to envision a world of formerly skeptical people who would witness the accomplishments of our athletes and say "Yes! I understand!" Hope allowed her to see the invisible, fight for the isolated and achieve the impossible.

But mostly, it was her unconditional love for the athletes of Special Olympics that so fulfilled her life. As Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social activist reminded us: "the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image, lest we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."

Her love for the athletes of Special Olympics was always just like that. She never hoped that people with intellectual disabilities should be somehow changed into something they were not. Rather, she fought throughout her life to ensure that they would be allowed to reach their full potential so that we might in turn be changed by them, forced to recognize our own false assumptions and their inherent gifts.

She fought the good fight, she kept the faith, and though she knew the race for equality was not finished, she knew that the army of supporters she had hoped for long ago had become a reality that would carry and someday complete her vision. On her behalf, as we prepare to say our last goodbyes, my family and I thank you for your shared commitment to that dream.

My family and I would be proud and honored if you would take some time to learn more about her life, share your own remembrances about her, and read the remembrances of others at a website that was recently established to honor her legacy,
. In the spirit of her hope that everyone would share in the power of Special Olympics, I hope you’ll not only read and contribute to the site, but share it with friends.

With great appreciation,

Timothy P. Shriver
Chairman and CEO
Special Olympics

Friday, August 7, 2009

Howe Developmental Center

In our posting on July 6th, we mentioned Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park. Please take a look at what our Illinois tax dollars are being spent on:

Monday, August 3, 2009

"We cannot, in good conscience, cut our way out of this state budget deficit"

In My View: Government's role as protector of disabled at issue
Every year, I tell myself, "It can't get worse." Well, I've clearly been proven wrong by this year's budget, and politics. We are in the throes of a massive dismantling of Illinois' human services system - some might say "right-sizing government," while others refer to the current budget as doomsday.

From my perspective, it is clearly the latter - draconian cuts threatening the very existence of many services and organizations.

Folks have heard warnings about service cuts and/or agency closures but seem to react based on whose ox is being gored. Most react when directly affected and the service they need no longer is available. I'm focused on community-based organizations serving people with disabilities, arguably some our most vulnerable citizens, but the budget impacts all social service agencies.

What do we know about the not-for-profit sector?

*Most are 501(c)(3) charitable corporations. They do, however, need to make money - it simply means that their profits support their mission versus paying dividends or profit to owners/stockholders. Without a margin, there is no mission!

*501(c)(3)s must comply with the majority of legal requirements to which other for-profit corporations are held.

Insurance, wage and hour, human resources, federal, state and local statutes all apply to the not-for-profit sector. These organizations often significantly affect local economies because of the jobs and money brought in.

*When 501(c)(3)s go to the bank or bond their building projects, the financial community assumes the state is good for their debt - it has historically funded them at consistent levels. Future dollars may be more difficult to secure due to the state's demonstrated lack of commitment to community-based agencies (doing the state's work).

*Community agencies often pay 20 percent to 30 percent less than market wages and benefits. An interesting paradox is that employees in community agencies must possess special skills to serve people with disabilities. These agencies, with which the state contracts, already were a bargain before the current budget crisis reduced their funding.

*If a bookstore, restaurant, gas station or construction company was informed it was going to lose 10 percent to 20 percent of its business starting July 1, how many would survive? It isn't surprising then, that many human service agencies are laying off staff, decreasing services and contemplating their very survival. An odd set of circumstances, given the various stimulus packages aimed on job retention/growth.

*Most affected agencies are safety net providers - ensuring that people without options always can count on service being available. Choice is severely limited. There is only one mental health center in Springfield. There are a very limited number of providers serving people with disabilities in any given community. Under current circumstances, some agencies won't survive and the remainder will serve far fewer people.

*Mental health is health care - mental health centers are required to have licensed psychiatrists, nurses, medications, and carry liability insurance. Why then, has the community mental health system been cut disproportionately to other healthcare providers? With access to mental health services and medications in question, the inevitable result will be greater use of hospital emergency rooms, inpatient care, police involvement, incarceration - all more costly than the currently under-funded system. And did I mention patient pain and suffering?

*Illinois ranks in the lower quartile in funding services for mental health and developmental disabilities. On some indices, we are 49th. Deinstitutionalization was a policy that moved people with disabilities into community-based systems - the same community systems that are now being decimated through budget cuts.

There have been previous budget impasses and extended sessions. This is much different.

The amount of funding cut from community agencies is significantly greater than in past years.

The worldwide recession has hit government at all levels and deficits are very real. Concurrent high unemployment and an economic downturn makes raising taxes an unpopular approach to budget resolution. Citizen expectations of government far exceed the government's ability to fund the expected level and mix of services.

We cannot, in good conscience, cut our way out of this state budget deficit. While there always are examples of waste in government, much has been eliminated and what's left, if addressed, will not come close to balancing the budget.

Yes, we all need to share the burden in dealing with the budget crisis. A fair, equitable and proportional approach always is superior to across-the-board cuts. Ultimately, we need to decide, as a society, what government's role should be in protecting and providing for people with disabilities.

Brian A. Allen, MPA, LCSW, is vice president for health-care partnerships at the Hope Institute for Children and Families.