Statement of Education and Policy Initiatives

Statement of Education and Policy Initiatives

Whereas, the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois (SILC) is a planning body mandated by the federal Rehabilitation Act as Amended, and is co-signer of the State Plan for Independent Living with the Department of Human Services; and

Whereas, a primary function of the SILC is the development and expansion of Centers for Independent Living and independent living services; and

Whereas, the SILC considers the needs of persons with disabilities in Illinois from both an individual and systemic perspective;

Therefore, we do hereby adopt the following statement of policy initiatives for the 2009 legislative session:

Centers for Independent Living, Branch Offices, Formula Funding & COLAs:

Centers for Independent Living are private, not-for-profit, non-residential, community-based advocacy organizations that are consumer controlled. The SILC supports the concept of formula funding as proposed by the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living that has both a geographic and population component for present and future Centers for Independent Living.

The SILC supports expansion of services for underserved minority and disability populations, and in the state’s unserved and underserved counties through the development of new branch offices of existing Centers for Independent Living (or through new grassroots initiatives).

Additionally, the SILC believes that all 23 existing Centers should receive an annual COLA that is at least consistent with any increases in the Consumer Price Index.
Continued Growth & Full Funding of DHS/DRS – Home Service Program:

The SILC was pleased with legislation allowing Personal Assistants collective bargaining rights, and incremental increases to $9.85 per hour in 2008. Personal Assistants (PAs) provide support in activities of daily living for Illinoisans with significant disabilities enrolled in the DHS/Division of Rehabilitation Services – Home Services Program and saves Illinois millions of dollars in much more costly institutional care. The SILC further supports provision of non-monetary benefits, such as health insurance and worker’s compensation for PAs.

We believe that the DHS/DRS current model of “consumer control,” where PAs are hired and supervised independently by the individual as their employee, is the most effective model with the state’s role only that of fiscal agent. Additionally, we feel strongly that as the hourly rate for PAs increases that there should be no attempt to reduce the hours of PA services individuals currently receive in the Program, and that current “determination of need” eligibility is not raised to decrease access to this Program.
State Institutions:

SILC applauds the decision by the state to close Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park. That institution has a long history of patient injuries and deaths due to abusive or neglectful care. The SILC strongly urges DHS to collaborate with experts from other states who have closed institutions and to involve individual residents and their families to ensure that former residents of Howe or similar facilities will receive the funds necessary for them to live in the community if they so choose and in planning transition to other residences throughout the state. We believe that this will minimize the trauma experienced by residents as they move to new homes.

The SILC opposes the re-opening of any type of congregate facility on the campus of the former Lincoln Developmental Center. This includes the approved option of four ten-bed units.

In addition, we support the closure or significant downsizing of the other state operated developmental and mental health centers throughout the state. Money saved by closing or downsizing institutions should be used to develop a wide range of community supports and services to meet individual needs. We believe it is preferable and more cost effective to serve individuals with disabilities in a community setting. “A community setting” should meet the federal definition. This would mean that no more than four unrelated individuals would be housed together in the same dwelling.
Voting Access for People with Disabilities:

The SILC supports the right to cast secret ballots at all local, state and federal elections in Illinois. In addition, we believe that all polling places must be physically, environmentally and attitudinally accessible to all voters with disabilities.
Increased Autonomy for DHS – Division of Rehabilitation Services:

The SILC believes that the core services offered by DRS form the foundation for increasing the level of empowerment and independence for people with disabilities within the workplace and the community. We are concerned about the ability of the Division of Rehabilitation Services to fill vacant counselor positions that are federally funded and to ensure that people with disabilities receive individualized vocational services in concert with the necessary supports to ensure “independent living” services in a timely fashion. We believe that DRS would be better equipped to serve people with disabilities if the Director of DRS held a cabinet-level position.

Home-Based, Community-Based Alternatives:

The SILC supports programs and services which allow Illinoisans with disabilities to live and work in their communities. The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Olmstead v. LC stressed that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the unjustified institutionalized isolation of an individual with a disability is unlawful discrimination. This decision also mandated states to have a “comprehensive, effectively working plan and a waiting list that moves at a reasonable pace.”

To this end, we support increased funding for programs such as the DHS/DRS – Home Services Program, DHS/DRS – Community Reintegration Initiative, Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs), family and home-based supports, supported employment, and other such programs that allow a person with a disability to live and work in the “most integrated setting” appropriate as ruled by the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, the SILC believes that the state needs to take measures to rectify the disparity between home- and community-based services available for the elderly versus individuals with disabilities under age 60. We believe that all individuals B regardless of their age B should have the necessary supports to live in the community and the availability of services should be consistent, regardless of an individual’s age.

The SILC applauds the passage of the “Money Follows the Person Implementation Act” in 2007. The Act presents the state with a means of achieving compliance with Olmstead. SILC strongly urges the state to ensure that people with all types of disabilities are represented when provision of services is being discussed by the General Assembly and/or state agencies. The SILC firmly believes that individuals with disabilities are the best judge of the services they need. SILC urges the General Assembly and the Governor to use recommendations from the Disability Services Advisory Committee (DSAC) to move Illinois toward full implementation of the Olmstead decision.
Medicaid Reimbursement:

We believe that the state should take every effort to capture federal Medicaid funding, and that funding currently used to support residential institutions, sheltered workshops and day training programs should be redirected to support community based services that allow persons with disabilities to receive integrated services in non-segregated environments.
Accessible & Affordable Housing:

The SILC applauds previously passed legislation aimed at “developing a comprehensive state housing plan focusing on building/rehabbing housing for people with low income and disabilities,” and encouraging the governor to “identify” funds to promote such activities through 2009.

Additionally, the SILC supports “visitability” legislation which mandates that new single family spec homes include certain modest accessibility features, including: (a) one no-step entrance, (b) 32″ doorways, (c) reinforced bathroom walls, and (d) lowered utility receptacles. Such features add less than 1% to the overall cost of the structure.

The SILC also endorses the expansion of initiatives by state government designed to provide home and apartment modification grants for individuals with disabilities and their families who require such modifications to live independently.
Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities (Medicaid Buy-In) for Illinois:

SILC applauds lawmakers and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) for the success of its Medicaid “buy-in” program which allows persons with disabilities who are working to pay a premium to keep their Medicaid coverage as permitted by both the Balanced Budget Act (1997) and the Ticket to Work & Work Incentives Improvement Act (1999).

The SILC is also pleased that eligibility for the program was extended to individuals whose income is 350% of the federal poverty level. The SILC believes that this HFS program should be tracked to show how persons with disabilities are increasing their hours worked and reducing their dependence on other forms of public assistance.

In addition to the Medicaid ” buy-in ” program, the SILC supports expansion of the state insurance program to allow private employers to pay into a pooled state insurance fund which would provide insurance benefits for employees with disabilities comparable to their non-disabled peers while allowing the employer to avoid paying higher premiums because a person with a disability has medical expenses which drive up costs of the employer-sponsored plan. The SILC believes that a program such as this would eliminate one disincentive to hiring individuals with disabilities.
Education/Transition of Students with Disabilities & IDEA:

The SILC supports the increased awareness of transition services for students with disabilities after they leave the educational setting. It is necessary that the state ensures successful transitioning to the workplace, additional schooling, or to other supportive environments. Increased coordination between all state agencies must occur and accountable tracking measures must be adhered to. Furthermore, the SILC supports self-determination on the part of students in keeping with the “independent living” philosophy. The SILC urges the state to enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, Title II of the ADA and other laws which affect the ability of students with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate public education. Examples of shortcomings in this area include school districts failing to develop and implement ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition Plans and failing to develop 504 plans which allow students to receive supports necessary in order to take full advantage of educational opportunities provided to them.
Accessible & Affordable Transportation:

Access to public transportation is vital in the lives of people with disabilities. The SILC supports the inclusion of funding initiatives by state government to increase accessible and affordable transportation options for individuals with disabilities and their families in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Insurance Parity for People with Mental Health Disabilities:

The SILC supports comprehensive health insurance that offers the same health insurance coverage for people with mental disabilities as physical disabilities. The Mental Health Parity Act (1996) was a first step, but insurers can still charge higher co-payments, deductibles and lower treatment limits. Additionally, insurers can deny coverage to individuals with substance abuse, multiple personality disorders, anorexia nervosa, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The SILC supports legislation requiring full parity for all categories of mental health conditions.
Reproduction Rights of Adults with Disabilities:

SILC believes that all individuals, regardless of the severity of a disability, should be afforded legal protection from unwanted and unnecessary sterilization. The SILC urges the General Assembly to join 36 other states by passing a law requiring that a legal guardian get consent from a court of law when seeking to have an adjudicated adult with a disability sterilized.
Employment:

The unemployment rate in Illinois for individuals with disabilities is 67.8 percent according to a 2004 study done by DHS/DRS. The SILC encourages lawmakers and policymakers to draft legislation and adopt policies which enable more individuals with disabilities to have employment opportunities. Legislation providing tax credits to offset costs of providing accommodations and insurance may be necessary in order to ensure that private employers afford equal opportunities to all job seekers.TheSILC urges the Department of Central Management Services and code agencies to increase the use of both the Successful Disability Opportunity and the Supported Employment Program.
Adopted : February 5, 2009