How do you reopen an
institution that was shuttered by the governor amidst allegations of
patient neglect, with the special interest groups calling its large
institutional style of care archaic?
LDC functioned for
more than a century as a state-run institution caring for mentally
and physically handicapped until it was shuttered Oct. 31, 2002, by
Gov. George Ryan.
At the recommendation
of new Gov. Rod Blagojevich, legislators appropriated $12 million
late in the fiscal 2004 state budget. Of that total, $7 million is
designated for facility development and $5 million is for staffing.
The recommendation/request is that 40 beds be brought back to the
facility will relieve overcrowding at other institutions. It will
also allow many families to move their loved ones back closer to
After the LDC
residents were transferred to other institutions, the facility was
stripped of all special equipment in apparent preparation for some
other use or to be sold. Residents were never expected to return to
the grounds, and the buildings were shuttered.
The facility and
grounds stand ready waiting for some use. The question remains now:
How should it be used? Should the larger buildings be put back into
use for mass care? Should there be a combination of the existing
large residence facilities used with new small-group homes to be
built on the grounds? Or should there just be new group homes built
and put into use, then the other buildings and property either
leased out or sold off?
It is up to the task
force to determine what residential care and supporting services
will be offered. They will need to look at the replacement of
equipment, operating costs, and come to an agreement on the style
and structure that best suits the type of residents who will be
Who could best serve
on this task force? While a formal list of names has not been
released, it is known that members include Lincoln Mayor Beth Davis,
some former LDC resident parents, a former director of LDC, former
members of the AFSCME union representing LDC -- all proponents of
LDC. Also bringing balance to the group's decisions are advocates
who oppose large institutional settings but approve of small-group
homes, as well as just plain citizens. Staff from DHS and
legislators, state Rep. Rich Brauer and Sen. Larry Bomke, have also
led in research and discussions. Those familiar with the facility
grounds and maintenance are also being consulted.
The task force met
for a couple of hours last month just to get to know one another and
to lay out a starting place for their assessments.
They met again
yesterday (Tuesday, Aug. 5) for their first work session. Tuesday
began at 9 a.m. with a tour of the grounds and current facility. The
group toured Bowen Cottage, Waters Cottage, Coty (the administration
building) and the central dining room area. After that they went
outside over to the ground near State and Kickapoo streets where new
cottages might be built. Then they toured the power plant.
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The power plant
operation involves a couple of issues, costs and time to open. The
power plant was shut down in April. It supplies the heat source for
the existing buildings. If the larger facility is used, the power
plant takes at least 60 days to get started again.
One major factor is
the cost of operating the power plant to run the larger buildings.
Total power plant operating costs are $1.3 million per year.
Electric, water, heat, salaries and benefits for seven employees to
run it take up $750,000 of that amount. The group will look at what
it might cost to run fewer of the larger buildings or to operate
only new, to-be-built, more cost-effective small buildings.
After the tour the
group set to work discussing their observations and ideas. A
facilitator, Brian Sorge of Lambert Associates from East Dundee,
directed the group, explaining how to they can develop their vision.
As the afternoon moved on they began structuring their beliefs and
organization toward how to move forward.
Thomas Green, a
spokesman for DHS, said one important thing that will be done before
the next meeting is that a small appointed group will draft a vision
statement from the ideas shared Tuesday. The task force will make
future decisions based on that vision statement.
"A lot was
accomplished today," Green said. "There was principal consensus by
the group, and they brought a lot of concrete ideas to the table.
They dealt with realities: financial, physical and needs for the
residents. They looked at the goals and integrated services. It was
a major step forward, and they were all on the same page."
The major movement in
Tuesday's meeting was toward combining institutional setting and
small-group homes, Green said.
Sen. Bomke said that
any number of options with what to do with the current facility and
grounds were discussed. He was pleased to see the task force working
toward "short-term objectives set as well as long-term objectives."
He would like to see 40 beds opened at the facility as soon as
Those coming out of
the day's gathering said much the same as Rep. Brauer: "What you
have here is a group of people that's working together. There was a
lot of good discussion. There are different agendas. It was very
friendly, very open discussion, so I think that is what is
The group will meet
again on Aug. 20 and 28.
No specific date for
final recommendations or the reopening has been determined.
Gov. Blagojevich awaits a plan to be
compiled and presented to him by new Department of Human Services
Director Carol Adams.