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Murray Center Advocates Win Appeals Decision


  Residents fighting to stay in Centralia's Murray Developmental Center can remain where they are ... for now. An appellate court decision blocks the state from moving people out without the permission of a court-appointed guardian.

The ruling gives Murray Center families reason to hope for a favorable outcome in another case — one trying to block Gov. Pat Quinn's efforts to close the institution.

Gov. Quinn has pushed to shutter large state-run institutions, like Murray, and transition residents into community-based care.

But checks into these smaller, often privately owned, group homes have revealed what Rita Winkeler, president of the Murray Parents Association, calls a lack of care.

"The people they have moved out of Murray Center — most of them are wards of the state — they have been neglected, they have not been given medicine," she said. "It has been really been a tragedy ... The money and the quality of care is not there."

She also says many residents, including her adult son, need the high-level care and security not often found in group homes.

"Many of us have had residents live in the community in recent years who have been drugged, tasered and ended up in jail," she said. "It's just not right. We are not going to allow people to die for somebody's experiment they're doing."

But advocates for community based care say Winkeler and parents like her are misguided. Katherine Hamann, resident of Palos Heights, didn't know her sister, Margaret, until adulthood. Margaret grew up in a state institution in Dixon, and stayed there most of her life. Hamann says her parents were told to never reveal Margaret's whereabouts; a birth certificate for her brother said an older sibling was deceased.

Margaret, now 70, has lived in a group home for six years after Hamann fought to get her out of an institution. Hamann says the change in her sister has been astounding.

"She's calmer and she seems at home in her home," she said. "She can hang out in her room. She likes to sit in her big rocking chair there, she likes to listen to music ... I think that their kids could just have so much more."

A final decision in the federal case isn't expected until at least May.

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capital News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at outlets including WILL-AM/FM, Law360, The Daily Line and a temporary stint at political blog Capitol Fax before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
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