State Funding for Developmentally Disabled Homes Struggles

CHICAGO, IL (April 14, 2010) – The State of Illinois continues to lag three months in paying for services rendered by Covenant Enabling Residences (CER), and proposed state funding cuts could further tighten an already constricted operating budget at the homes for developmentally disabled adults, says Harold Spooner vice president of outreach ministries for Covenant Ministries of Benevolence (CMB).

The state payments make up 100 percent of CER’s operating budget, which is a little more than $1 million, says director Julie Smith. Twenty-four people with different levels of functionality live at Bjorklund House and Independence Place, both of which are located in Oak Forest. Independence Place is a community setting for higher functioning clients who require less assistance.

The proposed cuts would amount to roughly $25,000, Smith says. Any cut to the budget, which has remained static for several years, is significant, she adds.

Smith says she has not received a raise in at least four years – other staff also have received no increases. To reduce expenses, Smith has had to cut several direct-care workers and one activity person.

State budget cuts in Minnesota have forced the enabling residences there to reduce the number of dental visits to one a year, Spooner says. In the past, the state had funded at least two visits.

The enabling residences are increasing their efforts to raise funds from other sources, such as grants and individual donors, Spooner says.

CER is trying to raise $63,000 for a new wheelchair lift van. Women Ministries of the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church has made raising funds for the van its project for 2010.

CER raises funds so that it can send its residents to camp at Covenant Harbor Camp and Retreat Center. Smith says the camp always has worked with them to make sure the residents have an opportunity to get a great camp experience.

“They are so awesome when we go there,” Smith says. “They really pamper the residents and make them feel welcome.”

Groundbreaking ceremonies will be held Sunday for a new residence in Grand Rapids. The home will be located on the property of Covenant Village of the Great Lakes.

Despite the proposed cuts in Illinois funding, CMB hopes to construct Promise Place of Northbrook on the Covenant Village of Northbrook campus. “The need hasn’t lessened,” Spooner says.

According to the CER website, more than 20,000 developmentally disabled adults were on a waiting list for available residences in Illinois in 2008. The site reports that “earnings in the state are ranked 11th in the nation – with two counties hitting the top 50 highest-income list – while state funding for the developmentally disabled is the lowest.”

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