GUEST COMMENTARY: Illinois rebalancing care for developmental disabilities

2013-10-27T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Illinois rebalancing care for developmental disabilitiesBy Michelle Saddler
October 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Before Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn took office, Illinois institutionalized more people than any other state in the nation. We are now changing under the direction of the governor to improve the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities in Illinois.

We are committed to rebalancing and improving Illinois' system of care for people with developmental disabilities. Evidence strongly suggests residents living in smaller homes have a better quality of life and participate more in their community. Moving individuals from large, outdated institutions to community settings also saves taxpayer dollars.

To be clear, a recent article regarding the operational costs of the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia was incomplete and deserves further clarification.

There are several ways to calculate the cost per resident in a state-operated developmental center. The first is a simple, straightforward calculation that divides the annual spending by the average number of residents. For the Murray Developmental Center, that puts the annual cost per resident at $143,217.

The other, more thorough and complete method is based on methodology and reimbursement rates used by the federal government. This method includes costs not included in an SODC budget but in the broader state budget, such as medication, retirement contributions, group insurance, worker's comp, union wages and facility improvements.

Under this more comprehensive and accurate calculation, the annual cost is about $239,934 per resident at Murray Center and about $120,000 in the community.

The article calls into question whether more money could be saved by cutting down the number of staff. But the reason the Illinois Department of Human Services is maintaining employee headcount during the closure process is to ensure a safe and secure transition for remaining residents.

So yes, the cost of operation under the simple calculation indeed increases as the closure process continues. However, that is a small and temporary price to pay to ensure a safe facility closure. And once the transition is complete, delivery of care will not only be more cost-efficient, it will also offer people with disabilities a higher quality of life and that's the point in the first place.

Michelle Saddler is secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services. The opinions are the writer's.

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