Father tries to fight proposed state cuts

Disabled son will have to move, again

February 23, 2012

Inside the Capitol on the day of Quinn’s budget address, lobbyists criss cross the first floor, talking on cell phones.

On a nearby bench, Donald Pannier of Washburn sits quietly, carrying his cane in one hand and a wooden, framed photograph of his son in the other. 

His son, Benjamin, lives at Jacksonville Developmental Center, just outside Springfield.

"Basically, he’s an 8-year-old with a 36-year-old body," Pannier says of his son who has developmental disabilities. "If he could be at home, he'd still be at home. But we're not trained. We're getting older."

Jacksonville has been Benjamin's home for 11 years. It's one of the facilities Quinn wants to close to help balance the budget. He lived at other state-run centers for the disabled previously, but each time he had to move. The placements didn't work out.

Pannier says he came to Springfield to try to change Quinn’s mind. But the state faces a backlog of bills it can’t pay, and Quinn says closing Jacksonville will save about $29 million a year. Quinn also wants to shut down a home in Centralia, two prisons and two mental health centers.

Pannier has until Oct. 31 to try to make arrangements for his son. That's the date Jacksonville is scheduled to close its doors.

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