The State of Illinois has found a way to make back payments to a Wisconsin agency serving Illinois residents with developmental disabilities.
Chrishaven, a small agency in the La Crosse area, has confirmed that they have now been paid for all 12 months of Fiscal Year 2016 for the five individuals they were serving. The payments add up to approximately $200,000.
Chrishaven took over care of the individuals—four men and a woman—more than two decades ago because no agencies could be identified in Illinois to take them. The Chicago Sun-Times disclosed in February that no payments had been made for their care since Illinois’ budget impasse began in July 2015. Chrishaven had been scraping by, nearly depleting their reserves. Lynn Kay, who runs the agency, said Illinois finally recommended that she notify the individuals and their families that she could no longer serve them. In an interview for a newsletter published by McManus Consulting, a Wilmette-based practice serving disability providers, she said: “That day was one of the worst days of my life. It was horrible that we had to put everyone through such pain.”
The Sun-Times said at the time that there were 44 Illinois residents altogether who fell into this category and had been sent to various agencies in other states; it is not known whether any of those agencies have been paid.
Consultant Ed McManus praised the Rauner administration for coming through with the money. “The governor and the legislature both are responsible for allowing the impasse to drag on for so long,” he said. “But the administration deserves big credit for doing the right thing for the sake of these individuals, and it’s great that Chrishaven is staying afloat. But what a shame that these families had to go through this nightmare. It’s a disgrace that we have no budget, and that our most vulnerable citizens have been treated so shabbily!”
The individuals were given until March 31 to move out, but none of them was ready, and the Department of Human Services persuaded Chrishaven to delay the discharges. The families were offered funding if the individuals returned to Illinois, but that meant identifying Illinois agencies able and willing to serve them, not an easy task—not to mention the issue of uprooting them after all these years.
And then, finally, the funding came through. It is not known where the money is coming from. Comptroller Leslie Munger said previously she could not make the payments without authorization from DHS. DHS cannot issue a voucher unless there is an appropriation passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. In-state developmental disability providers are being paid under a court order, but that doesn’t cover individuals out of state.
Before the funding came through, the parents of one of the individuals, Keith Drazner, 39, of Highland Park, were able to find an Illinois agency to serve him—Clearbrook in Arlington Heights—and he has now moved back, but it has been difficult for him to adjust.
“This whole thing should not have happened,” said his mother, Sharon Drazner. “Keith was happy. The people who took care of him were excellent. The state had no cohesive plan to bring him back. He was like a movable chess piece—‘here’s a spot, let’s put him there.’ No one really cared. What a strange journey this has been. I hope it works out.”