Lawmakers, Governor, Veterans Squabble Over Shuttered
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 22, 2006
SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS--In August of 2002, Lincoln Developmental Center was closed down under orders from Governor George Ryan following years of allegations of abuse and neglect at the facility.
Four years later, Republican lawmakers, families of former LDC residents, Ryan's Democratic successor Governor Rod Blagojevich, and a veterans group are all wrestling with what to do with the institution and "Lincoln Estates", the four 10-bed facilities that have since been built on LDC grounds.
Earlier this month, Blagojevich said he now favors a proposal by State Representative Bill Mitchell, a Republican, to turn Lincoln Estates into a nursing facility for military veterans.
Mitchell's fellow Republicans immediately attacked the plan, saying that the state already has 180 empty beds in its four veterans' homes. They also claimed that Blagojevich's support of the proposal amounted to a broken campaign promise.
During his 2002 campaign, Blagojevich promised to reopen Lincoln Developmental Center, which had housed 250 people with developmental disabilities shortly before Ryan shut it down. Earlier this year, with the construction of Lincoln Estates nearly completed, Blagojevich dropped from his budget funding that would have gone to operating them. He said he was starting to doubt whether an institution was the best option for people with developmental disabilities, rather than homes in the community.
At a press conference Tuesday, officials from Illinois' Veterans of Foreign Wars said their group would not support Mitchell's proposal until more funding went to existing veterans homes.
"We don't want to be accused of taking those beds away from the mentally disabled," said Fred Albers, who is the group's assistant legislative director.
State officials responded that the number of empty beds in veterans' homes has more to do with a lack of qualified nurses than a lack of funding.
Earlier this year, Equip for Equality, the state's federally-mandated protection and advocacy office, asked the federal government to withhold Medicaid and other funding to the state if it followed through with the plan to open Lincoln Estates. The group claimed the plan would violate the rights of people with developmental disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and other federal laws.
"Gov. tentatively supports LDC as vets facility" (Pantagraph)
"Republicans at odds over LDC's future" (Pantagraph)
"Veterans group opposes LDC plan" (Lincoln Courier)
"Lincoln Developmental Center -- Illinois Governor Strives To Return To The Past" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)