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Group Wants To Close Developmental Centers

Lisa Ryan

Advocates for people with disabilities gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to show support for community-based living.

Bridget Brown is a public speaker who has down syndrome. She helped lead a rally calling on lawmakers to get rid of state institutions that house people with disabilities.

"A champion is a person who fights for a defenseless person, a protector, advocate and a warrior," she said to the crowd. "You are a champion!"

Bridget lives in Darien, Ill. with her parents. Her mother, Nancy Brown, says another family member, a cousin who also had down syndrome, was sent to an institution as soon as she was born.

"I think that it's a system that is old, that is stuck in its ways," Nancy said.

She wants to try to change that by encouraging parents to keep their children at home, like her daughter, or in a smaller group setting.

Tony Paulauski of The Arc of Illinois says this would save the state $337 million every year.

"We're still warehousing people with disabilities here even though the national trend clearly shows that the overwhelming number of states are closing their state institutions and investing in programs that offer people with disabilities the chance to live with freedom," Paulauski said.

Opponents to closing developmental centers say institutions can provide extra care that some people need.

Lisa Ryan is a graduate student in the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She previously worked at Indiana Public Radio and the college radio station founded by David Letterman. She is a 2014 broadcast journalism and political science graduate of Ball State University.
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