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Category: Scott Mendel's Articles
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The past week was extremely busy, but with the help of the entire Misericordia family we were able to advance the ball on the legislation that would create a new continuum of care license.  
The week started with a request from Sen. Mulroe, the sponsor of the Senate bill, to visit Misericordia.  Sen. Mulroe had visited Misericordia before, but wanted to refresh is knowledge prior to the hearing before the Senate Human Services Committee.  Kevin showed Sen. Mulroe our art department, coffee operation, bakery, McAuley, a home in Mercy Glen, one the Quinlan Terrace homes and the Eisenberg CILA.  We, of course, finished up with a great lunch at the Greenhouse Inn.  It is fair to say that Sen. Mulroe was blown away by what he saw.  Without any prompting he said:  “This is not an institution.”  He told us that anyone who has not visited Misericordia cannot imagine the beautiful homes and programs we have.  He added that words alone cannot describe Miz and he advised that we bring pictures with us to the Senate hearing to help the committee members visualize what Miz has to offer.  It turned out to be very wise counsel.
 
Also on Friday we learned that both the House and Senate Human Services Committees scheduled hearings on the legislation for the next Tuesday.  We knew that we would have lots of work to do over the weekend to get ready.  Then, our usual opponents struck.  Late Friday, Equip of Equality sent an e mail blast to its followers asking them to fill out witness slips opposing the continuum of care legislation.  Equip used is usual propaganda to try to motivate its followers, claiming that Miz is isolating and segregating and deprives its residents of their “rights.”  The Miz team quickly sprang into action.  Early Saturday morning, Miz parent Rick Nash saw the Equip e mail blast and forwarded it to the Miz executive team.  Bill Choslovsky quickly drafted an email to be sent to all Miz families and friends ask that they file witness slips in favor the bill, call the members of the legislative committees, and come to Springfield.  Jim Capraro got the email out to all the Miz families.  In less than twelve hours this crack Miz team had responded.  By early Sunday morning, we had well over 100 witness slips in favor of the bill against only 10 filings in opposition.  The pace did not slacken.  By the time of the hearing, over 2,000 people filed in favor of our bill to less than 200 opponents.  In addition, so many family members and friends called the legislators that by Sunday night, anyone trying to leave a message got an electronic recording that the voice mail boxes were full.  The response of our families was nothing short of amazing.  And, as you might expect, it caught the attention of the legislators.  One legislator even asked one of our families to tell us to stop calling, she had gotten our message.
A number of families traveled to Springfield Monday evening and early Tuesday in time for the 8:00 a.m. hearing before the House Human Services Committee.  Our families took up half the hearing room.  Rep. Jim Durkin, a Miz Advisory Board member and good friend of Miz, is the sponsor of the House bill.  He introduced the bill to the committee and described what a great facility Miz is.  Sister Rosemary testified about the history of Miz and its mission.  Kevin described the continuum of care offered by Miz and the reasons for the new license.  I explained to the Committee why the new license would have no effect on the federal Medicaid matching funds the State receives for Miz.  Equip and Access Living testified against the bill.  The Committee voted immediately after the testimony and voted in favor of the bill 12 to 2.
 
Following the House hearing, Jim Durkin was kind enough to host us in his offices while we awaited the Senate hearing in the afternoon and various other meetings.  We completely wiped out Jim’s supply of peanuts, with Kevin having the lion’s share.  During the morning, we met with the House Minority Leader, Christine Radogno.  We explained to her the purpose of our legislation and she was very supportive.  Next we met with Speaker Madigan and he also was very supportive of Misericordia.  Finally, at Noon, we had a brief meeting with Governor Rauner.  He remembered his visit to Miz and he praised Miz for the great work it does.  He also said that he would support the continuum of care legislation.
 
After lunch, we had a conference call with a member of Senator Durbin’s staff.  The main issue on the minds of the Illinois legislators is whether the new license will in anyway jeopardize the federal Medicaid matching funds.  We want to get confirmation from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services that the matching funds will continue.  Sen. Durbin has offered to set up a meeting between Miz and the appropriate officials at CMS so that we can discuss the continuum of care license with them.  During the call, we explained Misericordia to Sen. Durbin’s staff member and told her what we needed from CMS.  She agreed to call CMS and set up the meeting.
 
Finally, at 3:00 p.m. we had the Senate Human Services Committee hearing.  Sen. Mulroe, as the bill sponsor, did a great job introducing the bill.  He told the committee of his recent tour of Miz and he explained that Miz is not an institution.  Sister and I again testified and the same opponents provided their testimony.  Members of the Senate Committee had a lot more questions than the House Committee and we spent over a half hour discussing the bill.  In the end, the Committee approved the bill 9 to 0.  This great result is also largely due to all of the efforts of Sen. Mulroe.  He contacted all of the committee members several times to explain the importance of the bill to Misericordia and to sing Miz’s praises.  He is the type of legislator that Illinois needs more of.
 
Tuesday was a very long day, but extremely rewarding.  Every legislator and Gov. Rauner received us warmly and expressed support.  It was particularly gratifying to see the reverence and respect that Sister Rosemary receives from everyone.  The value of her credibility cannot be quantified or replicated.  It is, of course, well-earned after 47 years of tireless efforts on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities.  Much work remains to be done, but we made a good start this week.  Of course, the advancement we made could not have happened without the amazing support of the Miz families and friends.  When you were called to arms, you responded beyond what anyone could have reasonable expected.  That support is key to everything we need to accomplish.
 
One final person needs special mention.  Miz’s pro bono lobbyist in Springfield is John Nicolay.  He has been invaluable in this effort.  He picked exactly the right sponsors on the House and Senate sides.  He contacted every member of the two committees, the governor’s office and the agencies to explain the bills and their importance.  He countered all of the arguments that Equip and our other opponents made.  He devoted countless unpaid hours to Miz, even while he had huge demands from his paying clients.  He showed us unfailing patience even with all the other matters he needed to attend to.  It is obvious that all of the legislators like and respect John regardless of party.  He provided us with invaluable advice on what to say to the committees.  He also predicted with precision their concerns and their views.  We could not ask for more expert lobbying.  And he does it all for free even though he has no family member at Miz.  John is a very special person and I hope all of you get a chance to meet him.
 
As always, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want any further information.    Thanks to all of you for you quick action over the past week.