Advocates Accuse Illinois of Violating 2011 Home and Community Based Services Settlement

gavel, law books, scales of justice

by Andy Jones
April 19, 2017

Equip for Equality and the ACLU of Illinois filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on April 7, seeking to enforce a 2011 consent decree concerning the state's funding of home and community based services for people with disabilities.

“The promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act is for people to have the opportunity to live fully integrated lives with the supports they need to be successful,” said Barry C. Taylor, vice president for civil rights and systemic litigation at Equip for Equality, in a news release. “By failing to allocate sufficient resources, thousands of people with disabilities are being deprived meaningful community opportunities guaranteed them by the Decree.”

The 2011 consent decree was the product of a class-action lawsuit, filed by the advocacy groups in 2005, accusing the state of systematically violating the ADA by unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities.

The new complaint centers on the state’s reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers, which have been frozen since 2008. Due to the continued increase in the cost of services, the reimbursement rates have dropped in value significantly, by as much as a third for some providers.

According to the complaint, the low reimbursement rates have led to a staffing crisis for community providers, marked by high turnover and vacancy rates. As such, the state lacks the “staff necessary to implement person-centered services and community integration.”

The court-appointed monitor for the consent decree has highlighted the low reimbursement rates as a cause for concern in each of its annual report since the decree was signed, starting in 2012.

For each of the past two years, the monitor has found the state out of compliance with the decree.

“The Decree is not merely a numbers game; it requires the State to do more than move the specified number of individuals each year into community settings. The Decree requires adequate resources to ensure the delivery of appropriate services in both (Community Integrated Living Arrangements) and (intermediate care facility for individuals with developmental disabilities),” the complaint states. “Without adequate resources, the Decree’s promise of the services needed to achieve a full, safe, and integrated life cannot be fulfilled.”

The full complaint can be read here [PDF].

Disability Rights Washington and Equip for Equality are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Illinois, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.