- Published: Friday, October 14, 2016 05:26 PM
CHICAGO – Nearly 19,000 developmentally disabled Illinoisans and their families could face an uncertain future when the benchmarks of a 2011 court mandate requiring the state to offer services to them expires next year with no apparent plan in place for going forward.
The sunset of the Ligas consent decree’s outlined requirements on June 15, 2017, could cause additional chaos for the state’s network of human service providers, which already is reeling from the state budget stalemate. The decree requires the state to fund certain services, regardless of its ability to pay.
Families, providers and members of the Senate Human Services Committee hope to get some clarity about the matter during a hearing Monday in Chicago.
“I am troubled by the lack of transparency about how the state intends to continue offering services for developmentally disabled individuals. Their families are alarmed and frustrated, and I share their concerns,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat who is chairman of the Human Services Committee.
Illinois’ statewide needs-based PUNS database – Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services – currently has 18,671 individuals awaiting services from the state. This includes adults with developmental disabilities, children with autism, and people with cerebral palsy and other diagnoses.
Families are worried that it will take even longer for their loved ones to receive the help they need.
In January, the state’s Ligas court monitor determined Illinois is out of compliance with the consent decree for reasons including how little it pays human service employees who work with developmentally disabled individuals. Starting wages can be as low as $9.25 per hour for these physically and emotionally demanding jobs.
Such low rates lead to job vacancies and uncertainty, which in turn causes providers to scale back the services they are willing to offer. The result is an even longer PUNS wait list.
“Direct Support Professionals are the single most critical component in the delivery of quality services. We have a DSP staffing crisis in Illinois that requires immediate attention,” said Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of the Ray Graham Association, which serves nearly 2,500 children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in the DuPage County area.
“Until a deliberate effort is made to address the staffing crisis, people will continue to wait for critical services and more and more families will spiral into emergency situations.”
The Senate Human Services Committee on Monday will hear from the Ligas court monitor, service providers and families affected by the consent decree and the state’s continued shortcomings in meeting its obligations.
The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in Room C600 of the Bilandic Building in Chicago.
- What: Senate Human Services Committee hearing regarding expiration of benchmarks in the 2017 Ligas consent decree
- When: 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 17, 2016
- Where: Bilandic Building, Room C600, 160 N. LaSalle St., Chicago
- Who: Scheduled to testify are Ronnie Cohen, the state’s Ligas court monitor; Barry Taylor, vice president of the civil rights team at Equip for Equality; Scott Mendel, legal representation for intervenors and Misericordia; Mike Baker, parent and state advocacy chair of Autism Speaks; Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of the Ray Graham Association; Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Envision Unlimited; and Christine Rivera, a direct support worker.