U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman decided today that the State of Illinois has not been providing adequate resources for citizens with developmental disabilities, in direct violation of the Ligas Consent Decree.
Set up as a settlement agreement between the state and class members made up of Illinois residents with developmental disabilities, Ligas has allowed both parties to stay out of costly litigation. The consent decree was set to expire this year but the State of Illinois has failed to uphold its end of the decree. Ligas is premised on the Olmstead Supreme Court decision of 1999, an ADA case which ruled in favor of plaintiffs Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson to assert their right to live in the community instead of in an institution.
Stanley Ligas and eight other individuals with developmental disabilities brought suit against the State of Illinois in 2005, noting that the state had violated their Olmstead rights. The case became a class action suit brought by people who were either not receiving any services, after being placed on a waitlist, or who were receiving services in restrictive institutional settings. Settled in 2008 with the current consent decree, Ligas gave the state time to show some progress.
Judge Coleman ordered Governor Rauner's administration to devise a plan to restore services before the next status hearing, scheduled for October 27th of this year. Illinois, which has been embroiled in a budget impasse, has not provided resources "of sufficient quality, scope, and variety" to people with developmental disabilities. The judgement notes that they have "suffered substantially" from a reduction in services.
The state argued that Illinois could not afford to provide adequate services. The current budget gives caregivers their first hourly rate hike since 2008, an increase of 75¢ per hour. Service providers, noting staff attrition and hiring difficulties, know the wage hike is insufficient to retain workers. Providers have not been able to sustain or expand their home and community-based programs. Low rates have created a staffing crisis situation, which forced providers to decrease staff ratios and focus on minimum standards of safety as opposed to having enough staff to take people out of the house to build skills and practice independence.
Inclusion PAC is pleased that Judge Coleman has ruled to continue to hold the State of Illinois accountable for pro-inclusion practices and policies.
Contributed by the committee officers of Inclusion PAC.