Illinois "Freedom Ride"
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Evoking the civil rights spirit of the 1960s, disability advocates will embark on a "freedom ride" Sunday to push for an end to institutionalization of those with disabilities.
About 30 people with disabilities, senior citizens and their families will make the 700-mile trek around the state, ending Thursday in Springfield, to drum up support for the Community First Act. The legislation would compel the state to spend its money on support services allowing the disabled to live in their communities, rather than institutions or large group homes.
October is Disability Awareness Month, and the event comes just before the fall legislative veto session.
The Freedom Ride '05 tour was organized by the Campaign for Real Choice in Illinois, founded by Lester and Barbara Pritchard of Urbana. Lester Pritchard is chairman of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, and Barbara Pritchard is former director of Persons Assuming Control of Their Environment, in Urbana.
The group argues that 20 years of scientific research conclusively shows that people with significant disabilities are better off in small, family-scale homes. Yet the state continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep these individuals in "outdated, ineffective institutions," it says.
Illinois spends $300 million annually on nine state institutions for the developmentally disabled, which currently house 2,740 people, said Tom Green, spokesman for the Department of Human Services.
It spends millions more for roughly 6,000 people in about 250 private intermediate-care facilities, from nine beds to a few hundred, disability advocates say.
It would cost about $54,000 per person – half the cost of the state institutions – to provide 24-hour support for independent living, the campaign claims.