The State of Illinois is in the process of closing Murray Developmental Center in Centralia. We are excited about this and the already-completed closure of Jacksonville Developmental Center. We have always advocated closing state institutions in favor of services based in the person’s home community. It is much better in terms of quality of life. Incredibly, it is also less expensive. It’s a great opportunity for a state with limited financial resources to both improve the system and reduce expenses at the same time.
That said, we’re not insensitive to the impact on the communities where these institutions are located. These institutions employ a lot of people and have a big economic impact on their communities. This gives rise to a lot of fear and animosity regarding the closure. We’ve felt that fear ourselves when Pontiac prison was slated for closure in the past, and with the closure of the prison in Dwight in the present. We can empathize with these communities in terms of the economic impact and human cost in losing the jobs, but we know the state must move forward in providing better services for people with developmental disabilities and leave the outmoded institutional model of the past behind.
There are point and counter-point editorials out today. Though SU didn’t serve anyone coming out of Jacksonville, we were a participant in the process and felt the state was taking a great, person-centered approach. We will also be involved in the process of the Murray closure, and will look at serving anyone whose needs we can do a good job of meeting and who is interested in living in the Streator area. Thus, we believe Division of Developmental Disabilities Director Kevin Casey has done a good and accurate job of outlining the process in his editorial today. We do understand the community concerns at the heart of the opposition though, in whatever form they may be expressed.
There is still a long ways to go before Illinois ends its institutional service system and puts its full focus on person-centered, community-based services.