Murray Center closure presents tough decisions

Dear community members:

On more than one occasion since Gov. Pat Quinn announced Murray Center’s closure, he has mentioned his commitment to restructuring Illinois’ system of caring for people with disabilities. He proposed to “improve the quality of life” by transitioning them from institutional facilities to Community Integrated Living Arrangement group homes.  If this is an issue of quality of life, as Quinn claims, then I would like him to visit Murray Center and see what a great life my 22-year-old younger brother Sam is able to live.

Born three months premature, my brother Sam was diagnosed with developmental disabilities. His diagnoses include autism, intermittent explosive disorder and cerebral palsy. He requires around-the-clock supervision. Murray Center is a home for people with a variety of disabilities ranging from those with complicated medical issues to individuals with behavioral challenges.

Sam is capable of having behavioral outbursts that require multiple staff members to keep him and other residents safe.  I am a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and have worked in smaller-group homes in the past.  If my brother were capable of living in a smaller group home, then that is something my family would have pursued. Because of Sammy’s behaviors, it is clear to me that he would be a danger to himself, the staff and other residents in a CILA setting.

In one residential setting that I have personally worked in, there was an individual who would wander away from the home. He was once found in a neighbor’s house. My mother worked in a Community Integrated Living Arrangement home where, on many occasions, she was the only staff member to cook, bathe, wash laundry, pass medications, clean and supervise residents. At Murray Center, when someone had a behavioral problem, there were enough staff members able to assist and supervise other residents.

My brother is well adjusted at Murray.  He has lasting friendships with staff and other residents. The staff at Murray understands his individual needs.

I have seen firsthand how some CILA homes operate, and the supervision is often inadequate and staff turnover rates are high. They are often paid very low wages to do a highly demanding job. While CILAs are a wonderful option for some individuals, they are not suitable for all individuals such as those with behavioral and complicated medical issues. I do not feel that Quinn should take away our rights to choose what environment is best for our loved ones.

I would like Quinn to visit some of the CILA homes and see for himself why larger facilities such as Murray Center are an important part of serving people with specific disabilities. If Murray Center were to close, I feel that Sam, my family and the many other families would seriously suffer. It is the best place for my little brother.


Jessica Conyers

SIU alumni 
& Certified Therapeutic  Recreation Specialist 


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