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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 11:34 pm

Families and legislators left in the dark

Quinn administration provides little information about plans for Jacksonville Developmental Center

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Illinois lawmakers left a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, with few financial details on how the state plans to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability held the meeting at the Capitol to hear the Quinn administration’s plan for potentially closing the center.     

Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, said that he was shocked by both the lack of financial details that were provided in the report, considering Illinois’ current financial problems, and the lack of information that has been provided to the families or guardians of the residents at the JDC.

“The administration will say that they have a detailed plan, but it was obvious that nobody on COGFA agreed with that,” Watson said. “If this is a person-centered process, then why are the families and guardians not being contacted about this information?”

On the day of Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State address, Feb. 1, family members of residents at the Jacksonville Developmental Center were at the Capitol to protest closing the facility.    

Four or five families attended the protest, which also had members of the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled in attendance.

 The Quinn administration’s plan is to have the facility closed by early October 2012, while moving 20 (of 184) residents per month from the JDC into community-based settings. If the JDC is closed it could result in the loss of nearly 400 jobs.    

The Jacksonville Developmental Center, located at 1201 S. Main St. in Jacksonville, is a state-operated facility that provides care for the developmentally disabled.

Janet Anderson, a legal secretary from Quincy whose daughter, Ellie Voth, has been a resident at JDC since 2002, said that the Quinn administration’s decision to close the facility is based on political factors.

“There are other ways to cut money for the budget, they don’t have to mess with human lives,” Anderson said. “These people (JDC residents) have special needs anyway and they are being evicted from the only home they know. There are other ways to do this without hurting lives.”

Anderson declined to suggest other ways to avoid closing the JDC, but did say that she and other families are upset that meetings to discuss the closure of the facility were “held behind closed doors.” She also said there wasn’t an opportunity for family members of residents at the JDC to explain to Gov. Quinn or local lawmakers the importance of keeping the facility open.

“The Jacksonville Developmental Center is family to my daughter, it’s home for her,” Anderson said. “The staff is wonderful, they work with my daughter’s needs and create a community for her to be a part of.”

Rep. Watson said that while he attended three of the four meetings that discussed the possible closing of the JDC, he felt that a decision to close the facility was made before he entered the meetings.

“The Quinn administration knew where they wanted the meetings to go and they wanted the meetings to serve as a rubber stamp for their actions,” Rep. Watson said.

“They wanted a member of each caucus to be at the meetings, but they wanted those members to rubber stamp what they were doing, so they could say ‘the General Assembly supports what we are doing.’”

Kathy Stucky, a retired postmaster from Ellisville, Ill., whose brother, Michael Bucks, has been a resident at JDC since 2007, said that, at the very least, family members of residents of the JDC could have been sent letters notifying them of the state’s decision to close the facility.

“We, the families, could have been notified better. Reading it through the media is how I found about it,” Stucky said.

Stucky added that moving a few of the residents to community-based settings might work for a few individuals, but for a majority of the families it wouldn’t work out.

“We wouldn’t have our family members in these state facilities if we had any other option,” Stucky said.

Rita Burke, president of the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled, said that the purpose of the protest was to let Gov. Quinn and Illinois lawmakers know that there is a physical presence standing up for not closing the JDC.

“Too often, the people with the most significant disabilities, our family members, are invisible because they are so significantly impaired,” Burke said. “This is an extremely dangerous plan, closing the JDC, that will harm numerous individuals, and it was not well considered.”

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoistimes.com

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