Plan to help integrate disabled people

February 8, 2009 7:46:55 AM PST
The state of Illinois institutionalizes more people with developmental disabilities than any other state in the country. In fact, Illinois is ranked last in supporting community living for this population. Plans are being proposed to redirect state resources for people with developmental disabilities so they can be part of the community.

Illinois has 15,000 people with developmental disabilities on the waiting list for support services. The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities has a plan that will help more people like Jessica Martin.

Martin, 22, is lucky. She is living in her own apartment with a roommate. Something she has always dreamed of.

"I want to live in this kind of situation and I want to get a degree in social work, work in human services which I'm working at Oakton," Martin said.

Although Jessica took transition classes in high school, her mom Joan said it took a lot of work to make this happen.

"Jessica just turned 22. Leaving the special education system and entering the entitlement system, which we're finding more and more about that is so grim," said Jessica's mom.

Due to Jessica's cerebral palsy she needs help from a personal assistant.

"Jessica and her roommate use their PA hours from home services program to pay for their direct support professionals, and the hardship for them is that the pay for these workers is $9.85 an hour, and $9.85 an hour pays for someone to cook, clean, give emotional support, drive them, give them personal care, showers make their food," said Jessica's mom.

To help with resources, the Martins found a short-term grant , which enabled them to created a microboard of support for Jessica to live in the community. They hope this is a model for other families.

"We try equally as hard to create parent panels, and just recently myself and another parent have put together a four-part parent education seminar for the special ed district where we invited people with the help of the special education district to called visions to teach parents about planning for transitioning to adult living," said Jessica's mom.

The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities has a plan to help other families like the Martins.

Sheila Romano is the director of ICDD.

"We're very excited about our blue print for system redesign. It's a seven year frame work for Illinois to take some major steps in rebalancing our system. Right now Illinois has never had a long-term plan in really addressing this issue," Romano said.

ICDD is currently working on getting the word out about their plan.

"We want to educate the general public, we want to educate the legislators and we want to educate the administration," said Romano.

In the meantime, the Martins have another concern, their son Brian who is autistic.

"Brian's proud of Jessica, that she has moved out. It's given him hope that he too will be able to move out. Brian has a very good sense of humor, and he said, 'I hope I don't turn out to be a dork with a pocket protector living with my parents when I'm 40,' " said Jessica's mom.

To learn more about ICDD's Blueprint, go to