Choate Center not on list of sites which could be closed

 SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn announced late Thursday, Jan. 19, his plan to close two state-run facilities, one that provides services for those with developmental disabilities and the other for mental health, to save the state nearly $20 million.

(The plan does not include the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna.)

Quinn’s plan targets the Jacksonville Developmental Center and  Tinley Park Mental Health Center, and says the state’s savings will come from transitioning the 229 patients at those facilities to community care.

“My administration is committed to increasing community care options and improving the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities and mental health conditions,” Quinn said in a written statement.

“The approach we are taking will allow for the safe transition of care for some of our most vulnerable citizens to community care setting.”

The administration said the facilities, which when combined employ about 550 people, would be closed in October. Quinn said most of the lost jobs will be absorbed by the local economies.

While many inside and outside the legislature have pushed for a transition from state-run facilities to more intimate, personal care offered in community settings, not everyone is happy about the announcement.

Rita Burke is the president of Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled, which lobbies for the developmentally and mentally disabled communities.

People in the facilities “suffer from severe, profound mental retardation to extreme behavior disorders to medical conditions that make them very fragile. So we are disappointed that the governor would choose to balance the budget on the backs of these most vulnerable people,” Burke said.

Quinn ruffled feathers this past fall by announcing the closure of seven state-run facilities, including Tinley Park and Jacksonville.

At that time, Quinn said the legislature didn’t appropriate enough money to keep the facilities going. Quinn and the legislature eventually agreed on a short-term deal late last year to keep the facilities running for the rest of the fiscal year. 

State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said Quinn’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but whether it will pan out in the long term has yet to be determined.

This is the first step of Quinn’s effort to move patients with mental health issues and developmental disabilities from state facilities to community care. The governor said more announcements would be coming later in the year.

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