Budget cuts: not all about dollars and ‘sense’

By Eric Brown
Education and Advocacy Coordinator,
RAMP Center for Independent Living

RAMPDuring his visits around the state both on the campaign trail and after he was elected Governor Rauner has said that he wants to help the state’s most vulnerable citizens, however, the current proposed budget could force some of those residents into nursing homes and institutions which will cost the State of Illinois even more money. This is simply not a cost savings.

Disability Rights advocates in Illinois have been working together since the introduction of this proposed budget to understand the potential impact and educate our legislators and Governor on how essential the services are to individuals with disabilities.

A $77 million cut to the Home Services program is part of Governor Rauner’s proposal to slash $1.2 billion from the Department of Human Services.

The Home Services Program assists people, up to age 60, with physical disabilities by providing personal assistants services, home modifications, adaptive equipment, and therapy which allows them to stay in their homes, in the community or transition back into the community from nursing homes.  The individuals that lose their services will likely end up living in facilities where they are not able to make their own decisions and will not be contributing members of their communities which will cost the State of Illinois more in the long run.

With what the Governor is proposing, these essential services will no longer be an option. Many of the individuals served under this program will have to manage on their own or wait until their disability progresses to the point where they are again eligible for services. To receive services from the Home Services Program an individual must be evaluated with an assessment tool called the Determination of Need (DON). The DON assessment asks several questions, looking at an individual’s impairments and their unmet needs.   The more impairments and unmet needs an individual has, the higher that person’s score is. A 29 is the lowest qualifier for service and Governor Rauner wants to change that number to 37.

Many individuals’ already receiving services have expressed great concern over the potential loss of their essential care.  Richard Ross, an individual with a disability served through the Community Reintegration program and who most recently scored a 32 on his last assessment shared, “I know that I would end up back at the nursing home without home services which would then kill me. I cannot and will not ever return to the nursing home.”

Currently, there are 30,000 people being assisted in the Home Services Program. If the eligibility requirements for the Home Services Program are changed as currently being proposed, 10,000 people will see their services reduced or eliminated, putting them in danger of nursing home placement which cost the State of Illinois on average $ 70,000 dollars a year per person.

If these individuals are able to live in their community and receive services through the Home Services Program, the average cost per person is $38,000 dollars which is a $32,000 savings per person for the State of Illinois when compared to the average cost of a nursing home.

Garry Guldin, who is an individual receiving services through the Home Services Program recently shared with the advocate working with him, “Without my personal assistant’s help I could not do the activities I do today. The relationship I have with my daughter is very important to me and I would love to give her a good influence. I don’t believe this would be possible living in a nursing home.”

As we approach the 25th Anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act on July, 26th, 2015, we are asking Governor Rauner, our legislators, and the people of the State of Illinois, to do the right thing and maintain the essential services provided to individuals with disabilities through the Home Services Program.  People with disabilities are one of the largest and fastest growing minority groups and the ONLY minority group that anyone can join at any time. While these cuts may not impact your life or someone you know, that can change in the future.

The State of Illinois must balance the budget, but making cuts that impact the quality of life of the people of Illinois just doesn’t save money or make sense

RAMP empowers individuals with disabilities through services and advocacy to live an independent life. We accomplish this by partnering with them to make changes in their own lives, seek peer support and remove barriers. RAMP advocates for the implementation of current laws, promotion of needed legislation and improvement of existing systems for individuals with disabilities while working to diminish negative attitudes that threaten to impede equal access.

RAMP is a United Way Member Agency.

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