Judge orders Illinois to resume provider payments

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Community Living News from Illinois

Responding to pressure from disability advocates, a federal judge has ordered the state of Illinois to resume payments to providers of services for people with disabilities mandated under a court-approved settlement.

In 2011, the state of Illinois, in a case known as Ligas v. Norwood, agreed to a six-year timetable to transfer thousands of people with disabilities from institutional to home and community-based services, as well as provide services to protect individuals at risk of being institutionalized.

On June 30, 2015, after it became clear the state legislature would fail to pass a budget appropriation for the upcoming fiscal year, the parties reached an Agreed Order for the state to continue making payments required under the agreement.

The state comptroller, however, halted payments, prompting an emergency motion August 6 by Equip for Equality, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Access Living, the plaintiffs in the Ligas litigation.

On August 18, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ordered the state to pay the full $120 million in backpay required under the settlement. Three days later, the state paid out $76 million of this amount.

On August 26, the plaintiffs filed a new emergency motion to hold the state in civil contempt.

“People with developmental disabilities have been needlessly put at risk of serious harm because of the State’s failure to comply with the Judge’s order,” said Barry C. Taylor, vice president for civil rights and systemic litigation at Equip for Equality, in a news release. “While we are pleased that the State has finally begun to make the mandated payments, we will not rest until all services for all of our clients have been paid for by the State.”

The District Court heard arguments August 31 on the plaintiff’s contempt motion.

Equip for Equality and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.