For more than a year I have been a strong advocate of keeping the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia open. As we're all aware, this has been an ongoing issue since the governor announced his plan to close the center in his State of the State Address last February, and a lot of developments have taken place since then. I have worked closely with Rep. John Cavaletto and members of all of the various groups and organizations working on behalf of the patients and employees at Murray Center.
I am displeased with the way the Illinois Department of Human Services has been handling the closure of Murray Center. The families and friends of the residents have concerns and their concerns appear to fall on deaf ears.
Looking at the situation as objectively as I can, I believe one of the biggest problems the families and the employees have with the closure is the perceived lack of transparency in the process. To help shed some light on the closure process DHS has established, I have introduced House Bill 97.
House Bill 97 calls for a thorough six-month study of the transition for patients of the Jacksonville Development Center before any other developmental centers in Illinois can be closed. The bill is designed to see how well the state handles the transition of the patients at Jacksonville before Murray Center can begin any of its own transitions. Jacksonville was the first closure of its kind in the state; its residents did not have the severity that the residents of Murray Center have.
When dealing with the lives of severely developmentally disabled people, the state should proceed slowly and carefully to avoid any potential harm to the patients. We should review how the closure of Jacksonville Developmental Center occurred to not only make sure it went smoothly, but more importantly to make sure no patients are being harmed in the process. We should be learning from the Jacksonville closure to see what works and what doesn't before that model is applied at another facility.
On Feb. 6 I presented testimony to the Human Services Committee on House Bill 97. It was a very productive meeting and we gained some new support from other legislators. At this time I am working hard to continue moving House Bill 97 through all of the bureaucratic red tape in Springfield.
We know we're facing an uphill battle and this battle is worth fighting. If the governor and the staff have nothing to hide, then answer our Freedom of Information Act requests for information pertaining to the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center.
We at least owe the 267 special residents at Murray Center the chance to be treated with respect and dignity, not loaded up like a herd of cows on a bankruptcy sale.
Charlie Meier, of Okawville, is state representative for the 108th District. The Murray Developmental Center in Centralia is part of his district.