Settlement conference fails to settle Murray Center lawsuit

News-DemocratDecember 12, 2013 

Supporters made "Save Murray Center" signs during the fight to keep the facility open.

ZIA NIZAMI/BND

No settlement was reached in the Murray Center closure lawsuit, and it will go to court in January.

The Murray Center Parents Association is suing the state over the proposed closure of the center, which provides full-time facilities for adults with developmental disabilities. The state contends that people with such disabilities would have better quality of life in private, community-based residential units than institutions, and would cut costs by about 50 percent.

But the Murray Parent Association disputes both the savings estimate and the quality of care in the private homes. They allege that closing the center violates the residents' civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, because moving them to smaller residential homes deprives them of the services they need.

Association leader Rita Winkeler said some of the residents need full-time nursing care that they could not access living in community homes.

A Clinton County court ruling Wednesday stopped the removal of 23 residents who are wards of the state, putting their fate in line with those who have parents and guardians to advocate for them.

On Thursday, the parties met for a settlement conference with the judge. Winkeler said it was "very obvious" there would not be an agreement, but they debated for at least an hour before giving up.

"The state is adamant that the center will be closing, and we are adamant that it cannot close under these circumstances because it is a violation of their civil rights," Winkeler said. "Going to court is probably the best thing."

The state attorney general's office is representing the interests of the Illinois Department of Human Services. Spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said they do not comment on pending matters.

The lawsuit contends that some Murray residents have disabilities so profound that they cannot reside safely outside an institution. The Murray parents are joined in their suit by the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled.

The next court date is set for Jan. 6.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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