At long last, Judge Aspen has ruled that the Governor has every right to close
state institutions.

It it my hope that the families will work with the Administration to make this a very
successful closure that invests in high quality community living options for the
people at Murray.

Story from the News Democrat.


Federal judge rules state can close Murray Center

News-DemocratJuly 21, 2014 Updated 5 minutes ago

A federal judge in Chicago has ruled that the state can close its Warren G.
Murray Developmental Center in Centralia.

A group of plaintiffs, which included parents of some residents at the center,
had sought a preliminary injunction to block the state’s plan to close the center.
They argued the state was violating federal laws by trying to shoe-horn all
people with developmental disabilities into group homes — a cheaper
alternative to state-run institutions.

Judge Marvin Aspen, in a 55-page ruling, said the plaintiffs did not prove they
would suffer irreparable harm if Murray Center closes. Aspen said the state, in
closing Murray Center, is trying to “improve efficiency by serving more citizens,
to effectuate public policy favoring the integration of the disabled when feasible,
and to potentially improve the state budget.”

He added: “We are not unsympathetic to the real human concerns raised by
plaintiffs in their diligent and highly professional advocacy as guardians, on
behalf of their loved ones as well as other families facing this predicament. We
recognize that Murray’s closure may cause distress and disruption for plaintiffs,
their wards, and their families. In the end, however, we cannot grant them legal
relief on the record before us,
which does not permit us to conclude that plaintiffs’ interests outweigh
defendants’ interests…”

Aspen heard arguments and testimony during a weeklong trial for the case in
Rita Winkeler, president of the Murray Parent Association, which sought the
injunction, said she’ll be meeting with the group’s attorney to consider an appeal.

“I am so sad at this time, and having a difficult time thinking. I know that we all
did the right thing in fighting this, as our loved ones lives depend on us fighting
for them,” Winkeler said. “I am praying for all of us and our residents at Murray.
They are the ones who will suffer because government officials put money and
power above the lives of the most fragile residents of Illinois.”

Januari Smith, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said
the ruling will help Illinois move from an “outdated system” of caring for people
with developmental disabilities.

“The Quinn administration is committed to improving the quality of life for persons
with developmental disabilities by reducing the number of out-dated institutions in
the state,” Smith said. “Living and being included in the community offers people
with disabilities the opportunity to be more productive and social, live close to family
and friends and enjoy an overall improved quality of life. Over the past several
years, we
have helped thousands of individuals move out of large institutions and into their
very own homes.”

The plaintiffs sought an injunction that would have prohibited the state from closing
Murray or any other institutions that Illinois operates for people with developmental
disabilities. The plaintiffs argued that the state wants to put all people with
developmental disabilities into community-based group homes, which are
privately operated but publicly financed. The plaintiffs argue that group homes
can’t adequately handle the needs of some people who have profound disabilities.

The state admitted that it prefers placement in groups homes for most people with
developmental disabilities, primarily because they’re a more modern way to care
for those people, and because most people prefer residing in a home rather than
an institution. The state argues that it has no plans to close all of its six other
institutions, but that it’s a state decision on whether to operate the institutions,
not a federal

In addition, the state argued that placement in a group home instead of an
institution saves the state about $100,000 per person annually, allowing Illinois
to spread its limited resources among a growing number of developmentally
disabled who need services.

As of January, Murray Center had about 225 residents, some of whom have
lived there for decades, and about 530 employees, many of them union
members who helped with the parent group’s legal expenses.

Gov. Pat Quinn announced in 2012 that he planned to close Murray Center as
part of a “rebalancing initiative.” The state estimated it would save $22.7 million
a year by closing Murray Center and Jacksonville Developmental Center. The
Jacksonville center already has closed.

Aspen, in his ruling, noted that 11 states have quit operating institutions for
people who have developmental disabiltiies. “Community programs have been
developing for at least 50 years and are not a fad,” the judge wrote.

Aspen also noted that Illinois currently serves about 1,800 residents in
institutional developmental centers, and about 22,000 people in community-
based settings such as group homes. But, the judge added, “an estimated
23,000 people with developmental disabilities in Illinois are on a waiting list to
receive services, of whom 6,000 are considered to be in emergency situations.
The (state) lacks funding to offer services to
these individuals.”

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at or 239-2511.

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)