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From the big screen to small community living

Tamar Heller argues for the majority of Illinois' institutions for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities be closed immediately

“Going Home: A Full Life in the Community,” a documentary that advocates moving Illinois residents with developmental disabilities from state institutions to community living, features Tamar Heller, head of the Department of Disability and Human Development and the Institute on Disability and Human Development.

“The research has shown overwhelmingly that the smaller, community-based settings result in a better quality of life,” says Heller, distinguished professor of disability and human development, in the documentary.

The 25-minute film, streaming online at goinghomeillinois.org, is produced by the Going Home Coalition and The Arc of Illinois, with funding from the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. It focuses on seven people who made successful transitions to community living after living in state-run institutions.


The documentary references a study by the UIC Institute on Disability and Human Development about the 2012 closing of the Jacksonville Developmental Center in downstate Illinois.

The study’s conclusions “fit the pattern that we’ve seen in literature all over the country and other countries as well,” Heller says in the documentary.

“Families, the vast, vast majority of families, are quite satisfied and will tell you the persons are much better off. And when we interviewed the residents themselves, they also tell us about the positive experience of moving out of the institution.”

The documentary includes interviews with Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois, who also makes the case for community living instead of institutionalization.

“Lawmakers need to look at the evidence,” Heller says in the film. “They need to look at how moving people out of state-operated developmental centers is fiscally responsible, is also ethically responsible, also progressive — and I think that’s where Illinois wants to be.”