Saturday, March 03, 2012
 
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Closure date for Jacksonville center disputed

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[March 03, 2012]  SPRINGFIELD -- Moving requires planning -- picking a new house, qualifying for a mortgage and then packing.

HardwareImagine moving the 184 residents of Jacksonville Developmental Center in Jacksonville.

Gov. Pat Quinn's closure date of October is unrealistic, officials say, because community-care services throughout Illinois must be assessed and individual plans must be drafted for the care of each patient.

Families of the residents at the Jacksonville center said they worry that October is too soon. And even the head of the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Developmental Disabilities is hedging on the October closure date.

"We're going to close in a safe, sane, sensible way, and we'll let that dictate the closure date. We're looking right now from a budget point of view at closing in mid- to late fall, but we're not going to let that kind of arbitrary date get in the way of finding good programs for people," said Kevin Casey, division director.

Quinn said the aging Jacksonville facility needs more than $100 million in deferred maintenance, from fixing pot-holed roads to broken-down boilers. Closing the facility this year would save the state about $21 million, Quinn's budget office projects.

The Illinois Department of Human Services has contracted with Derrick Dufresne and Michael Mayer, two senior partners in the developmental disabilities consulting firm Community Resource Alliance, to lead the transition of the Jacksonville center's residents.

Dufresne and Mayer spearheaded a three-year project in North Carolina to move the state from institutional-centric developmental-disability care to settings in smaller, community-based care.

A 2010 report, written by the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University after the North Carolina project ended, could foreshadow some of the problems in the Jacksonville closure.

"When organizational change happens too quickly without the creation of a strong foundation, there is a risk that the community supports will be created that are not truly individualized, that do not include adequate organizational and community support, and that do not offer increased control and choice to the individual," the report said.

Neither Dufresne nor Mayer was available for comment.

Casey said community centers have "significant" waiting lists. The plan submitted by Mayer and Dufresne on February to DHS for closing the Jacksonville site echoes the lack of space in current community-based facilities.

"Among the numerous challenges faced in this process is developing services and supports which will be necessary for long-term success and which do not currently exist in many locations," the plan said.

Casey insists the governor's budget allots enough money to help develop the community-based services needed to absorb people from the state centers.

Adding to the bottleneck is a proposal to have each of the residents' individualized plans reviewed by Mayer and again by Casey before being approved, according to Illinois Department of Human Services' documents. The review is to ensure residents get placed in the proper environment, the documents said.

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With all of these factors at play, Quinn's office is now vacillating on the closure dates it originally set for eight state facilities, including Jacksonville.

"All the closure dates for the rebalancing (of where developmentally disabled receive care) are approximate. It's important to set a goal so that you're working towards a target, but the safety and well-being of the residents absolutely comes first," said Brie Callahan, a spokeswoman for Quinn.

Quinn said the General Assembly didn't give him enough money to keep the institutions open.

Before Quinn and lawmakers found an extra $376 million to keep the facilities open, the Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability voted in November to keep Jacksonville open. COGFA's vote was only a recommendation, but no governor has gone against such a vote.

Another hearing on the closure of the Jacksonville center has been scheduled, but no vote is planned yet.

State Rep. Pattie Bellock, R-Hinsdale, co-chairwoman of COGFA, said she wouldn't predict whether Quinn's closure date for the Jacksonville facility would be met, but like Casey, she said she would make sure the facility wouldn't close prematurely.

Kelly Kraft, Quinn's budget spokeswoman, said the Jacksonville site needs to close "to return the state to sound financial footing."

Kraft did not indicate where the governor would make up the $21 million if the closing plan fell behind schedule.

Bellock, who recently was named the Illinois House Republic budgeteer, said that if the facility isn't closed this year, the state would have to come up with the $21 million elsewhere that Quinn has projected in savings.

Bellock said beyond any logistic problems with a 10-month closure scheduled, families with relatives in Jacksonville and the employees of the center are an active community. She predicts a crowd of up to 1,000 at the March 7 COGFA hearing.

"I want the governor to come out, because I want him to see the impact," Bellock said.

Quinn's office has not confirmed whether he will attend.

[Illinois Statehouse News; By ANDREW THOMASON]

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