SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Families of children with special needs would have an easier time accessing critical state services under legislation sponsored by state Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago, who chairs the House Human Services Committee.
“We have a responsibly as a state to provide the necessary support to ensure a reasonable quality of life for all residents, and especially those with developmental disabilities,” said Hurley. “Unfortunately, trying to get services for a family member with special needs can be a long and difficult process, with many families spending years on the waiting list.”
The Illinois Department of Human Services currently uses a Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS) list system to track the number of individuals with developmental disabilities who have applied for, and are waiting to receive support services. Depending on individual needs, these services may include in-home supports, respite care, job coaches, residential living arrangements, adaptive equipment and other supports.
Under current practice, to register for the PUNS list, individuals first must meet with an Independent Service Coordination (ISC) agency to determine whether they are eligible for services. After enrolling, the wait for services can range from a few months to several years, as there is not enough funding available to provide services to the more than 20,000 Illinois residents on the waiting list. Prioritization is given to individuals whose situation is most urgent or life-threatening, for instance if a primary caregiver has passed away.
To help more families access services, Hurley’s House Bill 3483 requires the Department of Human (DHS) Services to contact people on the waiting list at least twice a year regarding their status, as well as to collaborate with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to ensure that schools are making children and families aware of the PUNS list. Finally, the measure encourages DHS to utilize available federal funding to implement an online application.
“By increasing transparency into how support services are allocated, this legislation would make it easier for individuals with developmental disabilities to live independently and plan for their future,” said Hurley. “As chair of the Human Services Committee, I will continue advocating for legislation and funding to help make sure these services are available to those who need them.”