We’ve started to close institutions here in Illinois, but not nearly enough. Thanks to these closures, thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are finally beginning to enjoy the freedom of community living. After years of struggle, these are six stories of people who have found a way of life in their communities.
Ron and Denny live together now, but each spent more than 20 years in state facilities. With a history of behavioral problems, officials doubted whether they could adapt to a community setting — with specialized support and encouragement, both are doing better than ever.
For 38 years Roosevelt lived in various institutions throughout Illinois. Despite his profound disabilities, he’s found a home with Lawrence, a specialized caregiver. Thanks to the advanced support, Roosevelt now enjoys dining, community dances, and his favorite music.
Without any other legal options, Robert lived in an Illinois State Institution for 2 years before he was able to successfully advocate for his own transition to an apartment. Free to dine out, catch a movie, and use social media, Bob has found a calling in doing advocacy work.
David spent 25 years living in institutions before he was able to transition to a community living arrangement. Outside an institution he’s been able to explore his hobbies: fishing, billiards, and (with the help of the neighbors) playing guitar.
At the age of 2 Margaret was admitted into an institution and lived there for over 60 years. While Margaret is extremely developmentally disabled, she has finally found small ways to express herself and enjoy life with her sister and roommates.
Eddie spent over 20 years in state institutions, from the time he was a teenager until he found a community option in 2011. After a difficult history, Eddie has found comfort in his community home.
There are many reasons to close state institutions besides the lives we improve because of it.
Institutions are extremely expensive for Illinois taxpayers, and many studies have been conducted on the impact closing them has on the people that move. Director of The Arc of Illinois Tony Paulauski, and Professor of Developmental Disabilities Tamar Heller discuss the evidence that demonstrates the positive effect closing state institutions has on people and families.
If we want change, every voice needs to be heard. If you’re ready to get involved, contact your local representatives and tell them that you support the Going Home Coalition, and they should too. Tell them that everyone deserves to live a full life in the community, and it’s time to do something about it.
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