A group of parents of residents at the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia is suing the state in an effort to prevent, or at least delay, the center's closure.
The Murray Parents Association is a lead plaintiff in the suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Chicago, along with the Illinois League of Advocates and several individual guardians of residents at Murray Center.
The defendant is the state Department of Human Services, which is seeking to close Murray Center at the suggestion of Gov. Pat Quinn.
Judith Sherwin, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said: "The hope and goal of this lawsuit is to ensure the choice of guardians and residents to receive continued services to the developmentally disabled in appropriate settings, including...institutional care as may be required for the individual recipient of such services and to ensure their rights to continue to receive these services in an appropriate and safe locale. The immediate goal of this suit is to stop all closure activities in regard to Murray Center in Centralia."
Rita Winkeler, a member of the Murray Parents Association, said the lawsuit "may last several years and gives us hope that Murray Center will remain open for a long time."
Quinn has said moving the developmentally disabled to "community care" settings gives them a better quality of life and saves the state money. Kevin Casey, the director of DHS' Division of Developmental Disabilities, said the average cost for Murray Center is $219,379 per year per resident, while the average cost for a Murray resident living in the community is estimated at $100,000 per year.
Casey said numerous studies "show that individuals living in the community have a better quality of life than those living in large institutions. Community settings allow individuals to receive the care they need, including 24-hour care."
Murray Center supporters say some of the residents there have disabilities that are too profound for them to reside outside an institution.
The state recently closed a similar center, the Jacksonville Developmental Center, and is in the process of closing Murray Center. Murray Center supporters have raised numerous questions about how the Jacksonville closing was handled, and what happened to its former residents.
Casey said each person who is moved from a state developmental center "will visit his potential new home and have a transition meeting prior to discharge. Residents will only be transitioned to licensed programs and will move in safe and appropriate means of transportation. The process of transitioning individuals has been and will continue to be careful and deliberate."
Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, who is an opponent of the Murray Center closure, said Tuesday: "For the 267 residents of Murray Center, finally others are starting to listen to them and their family. In the meantime, I will continue to push for the passage of House Bill 97 to ensure the residents of Murray Center are treated with the dignity and compassion they deserve."
House Bill 97, sponsored by Meier, seeks a six-month study of the transition process for residents of Jacksonville before any other developmental centers can be closed.
Murray Center has about 600 employees.