Community Advocates Asks Feds To Deny Funds For "Lincoln Estates"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 30, 2006
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS--The Illinois protection and advocacy office has asked the federal government to withhold Medicaid and other funding to the state if it follows through with a plan to open four 10-bed facilities on the former Lincoln Developmental Center campus this summer.
In a 14-page complaint, Equip for Equality wrote Monday to Jerome B. Meites, Chief Regional Civil Rights Counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, claiming that the plan by Governor Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, and the Illinois Department of Human Services violates the rights of people with developmental disabilities under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, integration mandates in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, along with other federal laws.
"Federal law requires states to provide community-based services for people with developmental disabilities, yet Illinois keeps funneling money to large institutions like Lincoln," said Laura Miller, Managing Attorney at Equip for Equality, in a press release. "Other states have successfully integrated people with developmental disabilities into the community while Illinois continues to move backwards by expanding institutions."
The complaint outlines a number of concerns, including allegations that the plan to build the new facilities was not based on the needs and wants of people with developmental disabilities, but instead on the economic needs of the town of Lincoln, along with pressure from the union that represents former LDC employees, many of whom still live in the local area. Equip for Equality also asserted that building and operating the large homes -- to be named "Lincoln Estates" -- on the old LDC campus, would be more expensive than supporting the same number of people in the community, at a time when Illinois ranks 49th out of the 50 states in funding for community-based services.
"In short, this project is enormously costly in terms of both dollars and the civil rights of Illinois citizens with developmental disabilities," Equip for Equality wrote in the complaint.
In August 2002, Governor George H. Ryan ordered the facility closed and the 250 residents with developmental disabilities moved to other institutions or homes in the community. Ryan came to the decision after the state lost federal money following investigations into alleged staff abuse and neglect, and suspicious deaths at the institution.
During his successful campaign for governor, Blagojevich promised to reopen LDC and get its 400 employees back to work. Blagojevich's original plan to reopen the 128-year-old institution was later scaled back to erecting the "community" of buildings on the campus to house 40 people.
Tom Green, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, told the Peoria Journal Star that the state has the same goal as Equip for Equality: "We're encouraging disability-type housing in a community-type setting."
Equip for Equality disagreed: "While the LDC residents will be housed in four separate homes, this does not change the fact that this is an institution; indeed, most state-operated institutions house people in separate houses. Moreover, the re-opened LDC is located in a rural area, isolated from the home communities of most of the people who will live there."
"The location of the homes was decided, not based on where people with disabilities want to live, but based on where political and economic forces decided they should live," the complaint concluded.
Press release "Complaint Filed Against Reopening of Notorious Lincoln Development Center" (Equip for Equality)
Text of complaint (Equip for Equality)
"Lincoln Developmental Center -- Illinois Governor Strives To Return To The Past" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)