Lawsuit Settlement Empowering People with Developmental Disabilities

Long-awaited reform supports state's initiative to rebalance services for people with developmental disabilities and provides personal choice and opportunities for community living.

Following a landmark decision giving people with disabilities greater assurances of opportunity and dignified living, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced his administration has signed a settlement agreement in a precedent-setting case involving people with developmental disabilities. A consent decree in the case of Ligas v. Maram filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago today builds on Illinois' efforts to help those with disabilities take more control over their lives by offering opportunities to move from institutionalized care to community living.

"This historic agreement will give thousands of Illinoisans the choice to live independently, interact in the community and become more self-sufficient," said Governor Blagojevich. "This dramatic reform is a significant step forward in offering people living with disabilities in institutions the opportunity to exercise their right to control their own lives, and it provides services to those who are in need."

The agreement builds on the Blagojevich Administration's efforts to empower people living with disabilities by giving them the choice to live in the least restrictive settings and to reduce the number of people in institutions in Illinois. In September, Governor Blagojevich announced plans to close the Howe Developmental Center and offer hundreds of residents the opportunity to move to community settings, maximizing their independence.

Under the terms of the six-year agreement, residents of privately-run Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled (ICF-DDs) must be given the option of moving into a community setting. In addition, the State has agreed to provide service to 3,000 people who are waiting for services and are at risk of being in a crisis situation.

There are currently 6,600 ICF-DD residents living in facilities funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services.

"People with developmental disabilities want to live full and meaningful lives like the rest of us. Most people with developmental disabilities want to live in their communities and be afforded true freedom and choice," said Shirley Paceley of Illinois Voices. "Illinois needs smaller, community-based choices for people to live the lives they want as American citizens. It is 2008 and the time for change is now."

"Being in a Community Integrated Living Arrangement would be a dream come true," said Carl Nave, who lives in an ICF-DD in Decatur. "I would like to move to a smaller group home and my ultimate goal is to learn to be more independent, more confident and be a real part of the community. Having more choices about where we live is important."

One of the provisions in the decree requires that, within three years, the State will develop and maintain a Single Point of Entry system to coordinate applications and assessments for eligibility for all services offered through the Division of Developmental Disabilities. After three years, no one shall be placed in an ICF-DD without first being evaluated through this system.

ICF-DD residents who desire to move to a community setting will have service plans developed by independent, qualified professionals. The plans will describe the services needed for the person to transition into and live in the community along with a timetable for prompt completion of the transition. The agreement emphasizes informed choice and no one will be forced to move from an ICF-DD against his or her wishes.

"This decree will assist DHS in expanding its community-based system to meet the growing demand for such services, while continuing to honor an individual's choice in deciding upon the types of services and settings he or she needs and desires in order to live a personally fulfilling and productive life," said Lilia Teninty, Director of the DHS Division of Developmental Disabilities. We are fully committed to providing an array of community-based options for those who desire them. We will work with those we serve, their families, guardians and providers to develop policies and procedures that will assist it in complying with this decree."