Mt. Vernon Register-News

September 27, 2013

Lawyer: Ex-Murray residents facing poor conditions


Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD — — A lawyer fighting against the closure of a developmental center in southern Illinois says its former residents have been moved to unsafe homes.

Stewart Freeman, a lawyer representing residents of the Murray Developmental Center, said in a sworn affidavit he became very concerned following visits to residents moved to private homes from the center in Centralia, the Belleville News-Democrat reported (http://bit.ly/18vGHkI ).

Freeman said he's made surprise visits to three homes where 14 of his clients are residing. He notes that some of his clients should never have been placed there_and believes they should be returned to the Murray Center, as "consequences could happen if these conditions continue," especially after scrutiny of the facilities has passed.

"Based on what I have seen during the course of my inspections, I have concerns about the placement and welfare of my wards that are unable to communicate and have such severe disabilities that they are vulnerable to abuse or neglect," Freeman wrote.

But the head of the state's department of human services said in his own affidavit that residents are doing well adapting to their new surroundings.

"The individuals residing in the homes seemed quite comfortable and content in their new homes and appeared to enjoy the privacy and relative quiet in comparison to the constant activity and noise that is often present" in an institution, Kevin Casey wrote.

Both affidavits were filed with the U.S. Northern District Court's eastern division earlier this week.

Gov. Pat Quinn plans to close the Centralia facility later this year. The move is part of a strategy to have more community-based care for people with disabilities, and to save the state money. The Murray Parents Association is suing to block the closure. The group says the residents — many who have spent a majority of their lives at Murray — have severe disabilities that only an institution can adequately handle. They also dispute the state's claim that the move to community-based care would save the state nearly $120,000 per year, per resident.

A hearing originally scheduled in federal court in Chicago Oct. 1 has been postponed.