Advocacy Group Demands Closure of State Mental Health Facilities

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Hundreds of people with developmental disabilities are placed into Illinois state mental hospitals every year, but advocates feel they should be able to choose the living situation that’s best for them.

An advocacy group, called the Community for All Coalition, is asking Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) to close several state-run mental health institutions for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“I don’t want to live in an institution again,” said Bob Peterson, a disabled person who’s advocating for himself.

Peterson was in an institution for about two years and says since being out, he’s had a life changing experience. “I wouldn’t be here right now, so living in the community is the best thing for everyone,” he says.

Peterson was one of thousands placed in an institution because of his disabilities and advocates say that’s not the best option.

“We want people to pick where they want to live, just like you and I would pick our location of where we want to live,” said Barbara Pritchard of the Community for All Coalition.

Their plan is to ease people back into the community over the next few years and close six out of seven institutions by 2020.  A move that can save taxpayers over $300 million per year.

“With proper support everybody can live a full life in the community,” Pritchard says.

Illinois ranked 3rd in the nation as the state with the highest amount of people living in state-funded facilities.  Advocates say getting them out is a life-changing experience that everyone should be given.

“They’re living the wonderful life that they can,” said Tony Paulauski from the Arc of Illinois.  “They wouldn’t have [that] opportunity if they’re locked up in an institution.

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