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August 10, 2004

Governor Blagojevich signs new law giving seniors more options for support to live in their communities

SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today that helps Illinois senior citizens weigh their living options in their communities. House Bill 5057, sponsored by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), directs the Illinois Department on Aging to establish a pilot project that will support older people in making living choices that meet their needs and reflect their preferences.
“This is a new day for many seniors,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Now, older people in Illinois have a voice and a choice in how they receive care. Finally, older people may elect to be cared for in the setting in which they are most comfortable.”
The pilot project will offer enhanced services to help clients move back into a community setting from a nursing home.
“This legislation allows seniors who desire to return to the community and get one time services of rent deposit and utility hookup,” said Charles Johnson, Director of the Illinois Department on Aging.  “These factors can often be a barrier to returning to the community.”
In addition, clients will also be linked to services the Department on Aging generally provides throughout the state: transportation, home-delivered meals, homemaker services, wellness and fitness programs, adult-day service, job training and placement, computer literacy and other activities aimed at meeting needs for education and physical well-being. The bill, which amends the Illinois Act on the Aging, also adds community reintegration services to the list of Department services that prevent unnecessary institutionalization of people 60 and over who need long-term services.
“It’s important that we help Illinois seniors choose the residential setting most suitable for them. There are many seniors who can live independently or with modest support, and who want to make the transition from living in a nursing home to a community setting,” said State Senator Don Harmon.  “This new law will go a long way in establishing a program to assist these seniors and their families in selecting long-term care options that satisfy their needs and reflect their preferences.”
“Historically, when an older person enters a nursing home for a short, recuperative stay, there is no program available to help them move back home or into a community setting” said Rep. Feigenholtz. “This new law moves us one step closer to offering our aging population better quality of life choices instead of languishing in a nursing homes.” 
A distinctive feature of the legislation, according to Feigenholtz, is the mandate for a transition plan of services that offers cost-effective options for choice of care by the resident, linking them to services that will assist them in returning to the community.
“Like people anywhere, many elderly want options and choices about how and where they live their lives,” she said. “We want to help move them out of nursing homes   if we are able to and return them to their homes and the dignified lives they deserve.”



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