PEORIA — Developmentally disabled adults and their families were disturbed last week when the state unveiled a new plan for the agencies that oversee their care.

The state reduced the number of Independent Service Coordination agencies from 17 to eight, and is asking some agencies to greatly expand their territories. The agencies oversee the care of thousands of developmentally disabled adults in Medicaid programs throughout the state, making sure they are safe, clean and living the best life possible.

Central Illinois Service Access, the agency that has served the Peoria area for 25 years, will no longer be serving residents here. While, officially, people can request to remain with a particular agency, it’s not clear how those requests will be funded, said Mary McGlauchlen, executive director of CISA.

“It’s not clear whether or not I will be paid if I do that, which kind of makes it challenging,” she said.

Metamora resident Barbie Perry credits the agency with helping her family negotiate some very tough times with their daughter who lives in a group home in Peoria. Perry was devastated by the news. She has relied heavily on the agency to help her negotiate the system, and at this point she doesn’t know who her daughter's new agency will be.

“It’s very traumatic. You have to figure out what the new game plan is,” she said. “Advocacy is really hard in that you really have to dig. Right now I’m trying to find out who is going to be our new service provider — they are there to protect my child and I don’t even know who these people are.”

Perry’s daughter, Stephanie, is articulate. She tells her parents if something is amiss in her home. But not all group home residents have the same skills or family support. CISA’s most important role is watching over people who don’t have family support and are unable to advocate for themselves, said Perry.

“Getting rid of service agencies is crazy — how dare they? This is the most vulnerable population in the U.S.,” she said.

Perry spoke of another resident in her daughter’s home whose family was not involved in her care. Perry and her husband, who are in their 60s, know there will come a day when their daughter will be in the same situation. They are deeply concerned. So far the system has given them no evidence to believe that their daughter will be well cared for.

“A lot of us are older and looking at our mortality. What are our children going to do when we are gone?” Perry said.

McGlauchlen and her staff were also disappointed by the state’s new plan. CISA’s territory shrunk because they didn’t bid on a bigger area, fearing they could not properly serve more people. Peoria and Tazewell counties have been split between two different agencies, and the agency coming to Peoria will be responsible for clients in about a quarter of the state. They will have to open offices in all their new areas and hire more staff, and McGlauchlen, who wondered if they would be able to financially handle such rapid expansion.

In addition, the state is now asking the agencies to visit clients only twice a year, down from four visits. That’s not enough, McGlauchlen said.

“Department of Human Services also made us responsible for health and safety, which is ridiculous when you see them two times a year,” she said.

McGlauchlen has been with CISA for 25 years and spent most of her career in social services. She’s seen many things, but said she has never seen anything quite like this.

“When the bids came out there was a lot of bawling around this agency,” she said. “I’m going to lose part of my staff. Their futures are uncertain, which concerns me a great deal. But what truly concerns me is there’s nothing in place as a safety net for our clients, and that scares me. Sometimes there’s so much bureaucracy that they lose sight of the human beings, and that’s frightening.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or Follow her on, and subscribe to her on