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An advocate's frustration at a public hearing about transitioning people with disabilities out of state operated institution


 On Monday, November 16th, Boy, my blood got boiled when I attended a public hearing  regarding a state-operated    facility here in the Chicagoland area.

Governor Quinn announced that Illinois will be closing Howe Developmental Center by next April  because of poor conditions and abuse and neglect by staff.  The Illinois state legislature held a hearing about how to transition people successfully from Howe and back into the community.  The hearing was held by the Disability service Committee, made up of legislators who were pro-Howe.

 I was angered by the fact that 95 percent people in  the room were parents whose young  adults are at Howe, AFSCME union that represent the workers at Howe, and the workers themselves. They painted  rosy picture of this facility, how they genuinely care for the residents.

But when the disability advocates had their turn to speak, they were grilled by the committee. Members of  the committee hammered the state's Protection and Advocacy agency when  they reported 31 deaths within four years occurred at the facility.  They asked if anybody got prosecuted  and arrested for the deaths, and when the agency said no, one member  said deaths are natural!

 There were several occasions at this hearing when I rolled my eyes in disgust.  A legislator noticed displeasure and just smiled.  I was angered by the parents who testified, not the  residents, about how good the facility staff treated their "kids."  I was angered by the committee that embraced the parents and the workers by  their non-verbal communication.   I was angered how the majority in the room dismissed  the disability community voice calling for the closure for Howe by their jeers.  Perhaps the reason why I was most angered was that the general public just don't get  it when it comes to disability.  Yet, one day they could end up in a facility like Howe as a result of being disabled.  After all, 1 out of five people are disabled.

"I think we're doing a disservice to the most vulnerable by closing  Howe," said one of  the legislators.  "We're making a big  mistake."  Can it be the reason he said that was because the Howe is located  in his district, and that his district could lose jobs as a result of closing the facility?

 The reason I write this is to let readers be aware of the oppressors who want to stick us (people with disabilities) in nursing homes and institutions so easily.  I wonder if some day when these people face institutionalization if they will still be jeering at people like me.


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