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EFE Statement: Governor’s Downsizing of Choate Developmental Center is an Important First Step

CHICAGO – Equip for Equality strongly supports Governor Pritzker’s decision to modernize the State’s approach to providing services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and take immediate steps to substantially reduce the number of such individuals at the state-operated Choate Developmental Center (Choate) in Anna, Illinois.

Providing individuals at Choate and other state-operated institutions with more opportunities to transition into community-based settings – while ensuring mental health services are available to all such individuals across the state – are important first steps towards aligning Illinois’ service delivery system with current best practices and the legal rights of people with disabilities living in public and private institutions.

“Equip for Equality commends the Governor for acting to protect the safety, well-being and rights of individuals at Choate, giving them the opportunity to live the life they choose for themselves. We will continue to conduct independent monitoring during this transition process to enhance the system’s safety net for residents,” said Zena Naiditch, Equip for Equality’s President and CEO.

Equip for Equality’s Independent Monitoring Unit first documented the troubled-facility’s failures in a 2005 report that called for Choate’s closure. Nearly two decades later, enhanced monitoring activities show little has changed.

  • Individuals continue to be segregated from their communities without receiving the necessary services to actually address why they ended up there, leading to needless and harmful lengthy stays.
  • Individuals continue to report feeling unsafe where they live, stating that they are afraid of staff and peers, and afraid of retaliation if they report staff abuse.
  • Neglect impacts every aspect of individual safety and well-being, from too frequent incidents of peer-to-peer abuse and self-harm to unaddressed health needs.

Choate has simply failed to meet its obligations to the people living there and, as recent Office of Inspector General Reports made clear, these problems are entrenched.  “Many of the recent news stories are about incidents that happened a year or more ago. Based on our recent monitoring, we can say without a doubt that these continue to be ongoing issues,” said Stacey Aschemann, Equip for Equality’s Vice President for the Independent Monitoring Unit responsible for monitoring conditions at Choate.

Equip for Equality has shared these on-going concerns with the Department of Human Services and is heartened that the Governor is taking action in response. “While we are thrilled that the majority of individuals with developmental disabilities will no longer live at Choate, we are concerned that the three-year time frame, as well as those who might remain after that period, leaves vulnerable individuals at continued risk of abuse and neglect,” said Aschemann. Equip for Equality’s Independent Monitoring Unit will continue to monitor conditions at Choate and communicate with the Department and others focused on ensuring individual safety during this transition.

Governor Pritzker’s announcement will give many current residents at Choate a very different future than the ones they faced just yesterday. “In 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court said in the Olmstead decision that unjustified institutionalization is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Governor’s decision will provide community living opportunities to well over 100 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Barry Taylor, Equip for Equality’s Vice President for Civil Rights. However, there is much to be done to ensure every resident is able to move into the place of their choosing in a timely manner so they can avoid future abuses.

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This publication is made possible by funding support from the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services, the Administration on Disabilities of the Administration for Community Living.  The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

Last updated: March 08, 2023

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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