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Local News

Will-Grundy disability advocate: Bill would 'roll back' integration of those with disabilities

Proposed bill would create license for 'continuum of care' facilities

JOLIET — The Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living is pushing back against proposed state legislation that creates a new licensing system for “continuum of care” centers that serve people with developmental disabilities.

House Bill 6304 has been assigned to the Illinois House's Human Services Committee and is slated for an 8 a.m. hearing Tuesday in Springfield.

The bill would allow the state to apply for a federal waiver under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act, allowing for “an alternative model" of licensing, reimbursement and quality assurance. Such a waiver allows states to test out experimental and pilot programs that do not necessarily meet federal Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program rules.

Leaders from disability advocacy groups — including Pam Heavens, executive director for Joliet's WGCIL — are rallying opposition.

“If passed, this bill would roll back community integration of people with disabilities by decades,” Heavens said Monday.

Heavens said the move flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision, which mandates that people with disabilities be served in the most integrated, appropriate setting — such as community-integrated living arrangements.

The legislation is being pushed by the Chicago nonprofit Misericordia — a 31-acre continuum of care campus that services more than 600 people with a staff of 1,000.

Sister Rosemary Connelly, the nonprofit's longtime director, said this alternative care method provides a choice for families of those with severe developmental disabilities.

Community-integrated living arrangements are not for everyone, yet it's perceived as the “right and only way,” Connelly said.

“[Opponents] are really denying families the right to choice,” she added.

Under the bill, continuum of care facilities would be required to provide community-integrated living arrangements near their campuses, employment opportunities, training programs and skilled-nursing residential care.

But a news release from Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago argues the legislation perpetuates “an antiquated system of service delivery and reinforces Illinois’ historic institutional bias."

“People with disabilities must be able to live in the community, work in the community, and participate in all aspects of community life together with their peers without disabilities,” the Access Living release states. “Community-based services need greater investment, not institutional providers.”

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