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Social Service agencies inform candidates of special needs

Updated: October 24, 2012 6:25AM

Karen Belcher has a clear idea of what candidates seeking votes in the Nov. 6 election should do.

Belcher, a special education advocate from Big Rock, had a teenage daughter who died. Joanna Belcher, 17, was mobile and verbal but had special needs like schizophrenia and autism.

“Even though my daughter is no longer with us, the issues didn’t die with her,” Karen Belcher said. “… We need them to be able to represent us at the state and tell the governor and all of the representatives and senators that are still there to say — you cannot cut the children, adolescents and adults who already have the least services.”

Belcher was one of more than 200 people —including parents, special needs individuals, staff members of social service agencies — who turned out for a forum on health services and social issues Thursday at Christ Community Church in St. Charles.

About two dozen local candidates and incumbents on the Kane County Board and state legislature showed up to listen to the issues and tell what they would do to support people who need special services.

According to Lynn O’Shea, Association for Individual Development president in Aurora and Elgin, the purpose of the forum was to educate the candidates about issues seniors and people with disabilities face.

“Currently the state plan is to put very serious cuts into place in the form of managed care for any individuals who are on Medicaid and Medicare,” O’Shea said. “So, we’re trying to inform the candidates on how seriously this impacts the most vulnerable of our citizens in Kane County.”

Issues highlighted included managed care, senior services, developmental disabilities and behavioral health.

There are more than 24,000 senior citizens and disabled people living in Kane County who use social services to be able to live in their homes and the community. Their primary funding sources come from Medicare and Medicaid.

According to information provided at the forum, the Illinois General Assembly had voted to move management of services from the state government and local services organizations to managed care private insurance companies. Kane would be one of the counties affected.

If this happens, Medicaid and Medicare would be under the control of private insurance companies by 2015 and mental health, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, senior care agencies, hospitals and doctors would not be under state contracts to do services, the literature said.

In addition, 14 percent less money would be provided for health care, home and community services for these individuals.

Social service providers noted that Illinois is delinquent in payments from six to nine months for local agencies.

An audience member asked how the candidates would they would address the state making significantly late payments.

Cary Collins, Republican candidate in the Elgin area’s 22nd Senate District, said there needs to be more income streaming into Illinois and necessary cuts must be made.

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