In the Illinois Legislature

The spring session of the Illinois Legislature adjourned May 31. Considering the wretched condition of the Illinois state budget, programs designed to help seniors and younger people with disabilities stay home, instead of being forced into nursing homes, did pretty well. The Legislature passed a $334 million supplemental appropriation to the 2013 fiscal year budget, to restore funding for home- and community-based progams such as home care, adult day care, and home-delivered meals. And it passed a final budget that seems to have sheltered these programs from the nasty cuts that were a good bet to happen, just a few months earlier. With luck, this will mean that these vital social service agencies will not be facing massive layoffs and closures. FInally, it passed the Medicaid expansion bill that should give several hundred thousand Illinoisans access to non-emergency medical care.

On the nursing home front, developments were not so good. The same bill that expanded Medicaid, gave the owners of the two dozen nursing homes that house mostly people with a serious mental illness, the authority to provide a new set of mental health services to a new set of clientele. This despite the fact that this group of facilities has a terrible a track record of providing decent care and equipping residents for the non-institutional independence they deserve. Not only are these nursing home owners to be allowed to provide various emergency and short-term mental health rehabilitation services, they are the ONLY ones who will be getting funding to do so, over the vociferous protests of the non-profit community mental health agencies. The rest of the nursing home industry got other provisions in the same bill aimed at weaking enforcement efforts by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

ICBC testified before the House Human Services committee about various provisions of the bill that weakened or eliminated existing protections for the residents of the nursing homes housing people with a serious mental illness. Thanks to Representative Kelly Cassidy, the testimony resulted in the only negotiations abou the nursing home provisions that occurred on the bill. (Not just ICBC, but all other advocates -- even the Department of Public Health -- had been refused any accesss to negotiations.) ICBC was able to get some resident rights protections restored, and Public Health was able to soften the impact of the enforcement provisions somewhat, but the nursing home provisions remain a testimony to what money can buy.



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