Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is backing away from a plan that would shutter seven state facilities within months to save money as a bipartisan panel of lawmakers rejected the idea in an advisory vote Thursday.
Even before the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability's votes, Quinn's office had floated a slower, more orderly reduction of state-run services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled that would keep seven targeted prisons and treatment centers open through this budget year.
Quinn's office says he needs help from legislators to reallocate money to fund the facilities. Those talks are underway, officials said, although key lawmakers don't expect a resolution until January.
The commission voted overwhelmingly Thursday to oppose the Democratic governor's plans to shutter the Jacksonville Developmental Center, the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, and Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.
Commissioners, who similarly voted against closing four other facilities last month, criticized the proposals as drawn up hastily with little thought.
Last summer, Quinn said he must lay off nearly 2,000 workers and close seven state-run centers — the others are the Murphysboro juvenile detention center, the Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon, the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford and the Chester Mental Health Center — because there isn't enough money in the budget to run them.
A Quinn adviser unveiled a plan Thursday that would close six facilities, but no prisons, over the next 2½ years.
It would reduce by 600 the number of developmentally disabled clients served in state-run facilities by 2014, allowing the state to close up to four of its eight developmental centers. It also calls for closing two psychiatric hospitals by 2014. It does not identify any facilities for closure.
The plan would provide for "the most safe, responsible transition to community care and facility closure," Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan said in a statement.
With help from the General Assembly to shuffle funds in this year's budget, the administration can drop its closure plans for this year and focus on the long-term proposal, she said. Those discussions are underway, but neither Callahan nor lawmakers could identify specific funding switches that are part of the talks.
Lawmakers on the commission were not convinced the Jacksonville facility could close as quickly as Quinn proposes, executive director Dan Long said.
They said Tinley Park provides needed services in suburban Chicago to 1,900 people a year and they scoffed at the idea of moving Logan prisoners to gymnasiums and infirmaries in other, overcrowded prisons, according to Long.
The Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois, which advocates for community-based services over state-run centers, applauded Quinn's proposal.
"The governor is making deinstitutionalization a policy stance rather than a reaction to the state's abysmal financial situation," coalition executive director Ruth Burgess Thompson said in a statement.
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