FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Laura Miller, Managing Attorney
(800) 537-2632, ext. 7316
(800) 610-2779 (TTY)
Barry C. Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director
(800) 537-2632, ext. 7317
(800) 610-2779 TTY
State Withholds Funding for Lincoln Developmental Center
Encouraged by Funding Delay, Equip for Equality Urges State to Permanently Close Institution
CHICAGO (May 8, 2006) --During last-minute budget negotiations, money to fund the reopening of Lincoln Developmental Center (LDC), an infamous institution with a well-documented history of abuse and neglect, was stripped from the state budget. This decision comes just weeks after Equip for Equality, the federally-mandated protection and advocacy agency for persons with disabilities in Illinois, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeking the denial of federal funding for LDC.
"We are pleased that the State is reevaluating its decision to reopen Lincoln, and we urge the State to go a step further and permanently close the institution once and for all," said Laura Miller, Managing Attorney at Equip for Equality. "Funding large institutions like Lincoln would be an enormous step backward, isolating people with developmental disabilities and diverting funding from community-based housing."
Equip for Equality is further encouraged by a resolution passed by the Illinois House of Representatives on May 4th which urges federal officials to use the property as a clinic for veterans, a more appropriate use of the land, says the organization. Still, the Governor's office has said the funding for Lincoln's reopening has merely been delayed one year, leaving the institution's future uncertain.
In its complaint filed with federal government, Equip for Equality argues reopening Lincoln would violate federal law by diverting funds to a large institution instead of investing in smaller, community-based settings where people with disabilities can more easily integrate into their community of choice. The complaint also notes that Illinois has failed to identify enough residents willing to move back into LDC.
Illinois ranks 49th in the nation in the number of people with developmental disabilities who live in community settings.
LDC was shut down in February 2002 by then-Gov. George Ryan after a series of investigations detailed abuses including sexual assault and the suffocation death of a resident. During the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Rod Blagojevich buckled under pressure from unions and political and business leaders in the Lincoln area, promising to reopen the institution in hopes of reviving the area's economy.
"It's a shame that Governor Blagojevich would jeopardize the well-being of people with developmental disabilities just to keep an ill-informed campaign promise," said Miller. "Hopefully he has begun to understand that economic development must not be advanced at the detriment of the disability community."
A copy of the Complaint filed with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can be found below: