SPRINGFIELD – The shuttering of a southern Illinois center for the developmentally disabled has been postponed because of a pending court case, state officials said Friday.
Department of Human Services officials told The Associated Press that the closure of the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia was being rescheduled from Nov. 30, though no new date has yet been announced.
“While we don’t have a date for closure, the intent is still to close the Murray Developmental Center as part of the rebalancing plan in Illinois,” DHS communications director Tom Green said.
The move comes eight months after a lawsuit to block the closure was filed in federal court by the Murray Parents Association and developmentally disabled groups.
The facility was set to close as part of a plan to save the state money and to have more community-based care for people with disabilities. But the lawsuit alleges that 250 Murray residents – many of whom have spent a majority of their lives at the facility – have severe disabilities that only an institution can adequately handle. In recent months, 18 residents have been transferred out of the center, but 224 remain on campus, Green said.
The advocacy groups also dispute the state’s claim that the move to community-based care would save the state nearly $120,000 per year, per resident.
Judith Sherwin, an attorney who represents the parents association, said the move was a long awaited acknowledgement by the state “that they can’t really set a closure date until they know if they’re going to close.”
The decision to remove the state’s application to close the center from an Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board’s November agenda follows a ruling earlier this month by U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen that upheld core tenets of the parents association’s lawsuit. Aspen’s decision allows the case to move forward, but it removed the Department of Human Services and Gov. Pat Quinn from the list of defendants.
Aspen said the state hasn’t proven that moving residents to community-based care is less costly than another alternative. He also questioned the state’s argument that a Supreme Court ruling requires the state to provide community-based care for disabled residents in certain circumstances.
Hearings on the case will begin Jan. 6 in Chicago.