A publicity push is on to protest the governor’s plans to close four residential facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled to try to balance the state budget.   The facilities are the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford, the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, the Jacksonville Developmental Center, and the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia. A parents’ group calling itself the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled organized a tour of Jacksonville’s facility for reporters Monday.


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At odds are the opinions that the state can provide the same services in a less expensive setting; and that the full-scale facilities are the best – if not only – option for the people who live in them.   “I don’t know where he’s going to end up … since the governor keeps closing developmental centers. I don’t know where the closest one will be,” says David Iacono-Harris of Springfield, who says his 38-year-old son cannot function elsewhere. He’s “moderately mentally retarded, severely emotionally disturbed … (and) has literally physically destroyed two group homes. He is not a candidate for the community, and many of the people who are still here are probably not.”


The head of the Department of Human Services’ division which oversees the homes, Kevin Casey, says the governor is exercising “reasonable public policy” and vows that the state can create an individual program for anybody moving out of the facilities.   The administration also presented, via telephone, a woman whose family set up a not-for-profit agency solely to serve her 34-year-old son as an alternative to the developmental center setting. Susan Barnhart of Canton says her son, Bryan, who is brain-damaged as a result of encephalitis and meningitis in infancy, is able to service vending machines around town and set tables in a local restaurant. The agency provides him with a home and staff for, she says, one-third of what the state would pay to house him in Jacksonville. She says group homes did not work out because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder and other behaviors.


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