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U.S. Court of Appeals Agrees that Illinois can Proceed to Close Murray Developmental Center

Recognizing a national trend to increase community-based services for people with disabilities and the proven benefits of community living, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that guardians of residents of Murray Developmental Center (Murray DC), located in Centralia, Illinois, cannot stop the State of Illinois from closing the facility

Following Illinois’ announced intention to close Murray DC in 2012, guardians of residents filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking to stop the state from closing the facility.  Claiming that both the community assessment process and the intended closure discriminated against residents in violation of the ADA and federal Medicaid law, the guardians sought an order from the court, called a preliminary injunction, to prevent the state from moving forward with its plans.   After an evidentiary hearing, the district court rejected the guardians’ claims and denied the motion for preliminary injunction. The guardians then appealed the case to the 7th Circuit.

In upholding the lower court’s ruling, the 7th Circuit described Illinois as a “laggard outlier” in the national movement to transition residents out of institutions into community-based settings.  The Court noted that only two other states, New Jersey and Texas, have a higher number of people with developmental disabilities living in state-operated institutions and 13 states have no state-operated developmental institutions whatsoever. The Court pointed to a body of research demonstrating that people with disabilities have a better quality of life living in the community—research that was cited in the amici curiae brief filed by Equip for Equality and its partners in the appeal. Further, finding that even if Murray closed the plaintiffs would continue to have the option of institutional care if they desired, the Court held that they failed to demonstrate the irreparable harm necessary to obtain a court order to prevent the closure of Murray DC.

“Equip for Equality has long-strived to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to lead fuller, more independent lives in the community,” said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. “The result in this case reaffirms the importance of increasing community-based options for people with developmental and other disabilities. Illinois must continue to bridge the gap that exists between it and most other states in fulfilling the federal community integration mandate.”

Read a copy of the court’s order.

Last updated: April 18, 2016

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