The absence of a state budget for FY2016, which begins tomorrow, has created great uncertainty for thousands of vulnerable children and people with disabilities who receive state-funded care and services. Developments over the past few days have yielded relief for these vulnerable populations by the ACLU of Illinois and our fellow advocates. Earlier today, two federal judges in Chicago approved orders compelling the State of Illinois to continue to provide funding for persons with physical, psychiatric and intellectual disabilities who have been moved from large nursing homes to smaller settings and their own homes in the community. The orders came in response to legal filings by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and our allies, who were part of the original litigation team for these landmark cases. The orders issued today, with the agreement of the state officials who are parties to the litigation, including the Governor, assure that the State must live up to the promises made in two federal court consent decrees in the Ligas and Colbert cases. Another federal judge will hear a similar request on Thursday afternoon in the Williams case, a matter regarding persons with mental illness who have been moved from large nursing homes. Over the weekend, the ACLU reached an agreement with State officials to continue to fund child welfare services consistent with a long-standing federal consent decree and a court order that was entered during the budget crisis of 2009, directing the State to continue to funding foster care and other services for abused and neglected children.
The following can be attributed to Benjamin Wolf, associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois:
The inability of politicians in our State to agree on a spending plan for the new fiscal year should not be permitted to interrupt the promises that the State has made to persons with disabilities in our state. Thanks to the swift action from the federal courts which retain jurisdiction over these matters, we can be sure that the services allowing these people to live in the community and reach their full, individual potential will not be interrupted by games in Springfield.
We are hopeful that the court will make a similar finding on Thursday regarding our other class of clients. They need these services to continue unabated as well.
Finally, we are pleased that the State also will continue to abide by its long time obligations under the consent decree governing operations of the Department of Children and Family Services. Children should not suffer while adults find a way to work out their differences.
- Ligas v. Maram - challenges the institutionalization and segregation of people with developmental disabilities in large intermediate care facilities.
- Colbert v. Quinn - alleges the State of Illinois violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by housing people with disabilities in institutions who could otherwise live independently.
- Williams v. Quinn - defends people with psychiatric disabilities who are housed in Institutions for Mental Diseases.
- B.H. v. McEwen - long-standing consent decree to protect children under the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and to monitor the care and services they receive.