Agencies that provide services for people with developmental disabilities have as good an argument as any — and better than some — for pushing back against proposed state budget cuts.

They have been dealing with spending reductions and delayed payments for years.

We have seen the impact of these budget decisions with the closing in 2009 of the Occupational Developmental Center in Bloomington-Normal that provided much-needed training and jobs for people with disabilities.

But many others are in that same situation in the state.

What makes this group different, noted Tony Paulauski, is it is offering a solution.

Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois, said his organization, which represents 60 agencies throughout Illinois that care for people with intellectual and development disabilities, is calling on the state to close four of the eight state-run institutions that serve the developmentally disabled.

The idea is to switch money from the closed state institutions to community-based facilities, which are less expensive to operate and which advocates have long said provide better, more personalized care than large institutions.

Most of the residents from the closed institutions would go to community facilities, although some could go to remaining state institutions, if that was deemed more appropriate.

In addition to the Fox Developmental Center in Dwight, the state operates developmental centers in Anna, Centralia, Dixon, Jacksonville, Kankakee, Park Forest and Waukegan.

We don’t doubt that there are many dedicated, caring people working in those state facilities. However, the trend in recent years has been moving toward community-based settings — and Illinois lags far behind other states that have scaled back or eliminated state-run institutions for those with developmental disabilities.

It is important that any closing of facilities be done with adequate planning and consultation with the families involved, unlike what happened when the Lincoln Developmental Center was closed in 2002.

Paulauski said the average annual costs to care for a person in one of the state institutions is $192,000 compared to $50,000 in a community-based facility.

However, moving to close any state institutions would run into the ill-advised agreement Gov. Pat Quinn made last fall with the state’s largest public employees’ union not to lay off state employees or close any state facilities.

The question becomes whether that agreement is binding on the General Assembly.

This isn’t something that is likely to be settled quickly. That means it might not provide the reallocation of money that Paulauski is seeking in this budget. But it is still a matter worthy of consideration — for financial as well as humanitarian reasons.

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