I have been talking to the Tribune’s Editorial Board about recent activities at Murray
and the UIC Study of the Closing of the Jacksonville Developmental Center.
Excellent editorial in today’s Chicago Tribune. Wow!
Who is the compassionate conservative here?
Rauner rips Quinn over governor’s smart decision
Gov. Pat Quinn made a politically difficult but necessary decision 2 1/2 years ago to
scale back the state’s antiquated and expensive network of developmental centers —
institutions that care for people who can’t live independently because of profound
disabilities. Most other states have closed these facilities and moved residents
whenever it’s appropriate to community-based group homes. It is the compassionate
and cost-effective thing to do.
Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor, recently announced that he
opposes Quinn’s plans to close the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia. “Right
now, Murray Center is the best option for these families,” Rauner said at an appearance
Rauner wants to keep the center operating until the relatives and guardians of all of its
222 residents are willing to accept an alternative placement for their loved ones, a
campaign spokesman said.
This mystifies us. Doesn’t Rauner profess to be the candidate who will make the tough
decisions to put Illinois on sound financial footing? In this case, he’s taking political
advantage of a tough decision made by Quinn … to put Illinois on sound financial
But this wasn’t just a cold financial calculation by Quinn. The evidence from around the
country is that people with disabilities are better served by living in community settings
than by living in institutions.
Nearly 400 people have transitioned from state institutions to community care. But
pushback from public-employee unions, local leaders and the families of residents has
delayed Quinn’s timetable. Just one of eight centers has closed.
The Quinn administration took great care to assure individualized decisions were made
for residents when it closed that one center, in Jacksonville. A recent survey conducted
by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago showed that 87 percent of the
families and guardians of former Jacksonville residents believe their relatives are better
off, or at least no worse off, in their new homes. No one reported that a relative was
significantly worse off.
There was resistance to closing Jacksonville, as there is to closing Murray, which has
478 employees. The parents and guardians of its residents have pursued a federal
lawsuit seeking to block the closing. A ruling in that case could come soon.
Here’s the argument we would have expected Rauner to make:
Illinois’ remaining seven developmental centers serve about 1,800 residents at an annual
cost of $240,000 per person. The cost of community-based group homes averages less
than one-third of that amount, though the cost varies depending on the level of care
provided. According to evidence presented by the state in the federal lawsuit seeking to
block the closing of Murray, Illinois stands to save $100,000 a year for each Murray resident
who makes the transition to community care.
Illinois has 22,000 people on the waiting list for community care and related services. They
have to wait because the state has no extra money and hasn’t been able to achieve the
savings that reducing the number of institutions would provide.
In the approach to these state institutions, Gov. Quinn has been the compassionate
conservative. Mr. Rauner has found it politically advantageous to advocate spending money
the state doesn’t have.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423