SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn’s push to close the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia took another step back Monday.

Clinton County Judge Dennis Middendorff ruled that no wards of the state currently housed at the center can be transferred to other facilities or smaller, group homes until further hearings are held.

The ruling comes after a separate federal court ruling earlier this month barred the administration from transferring residents with private guardians while the matter is being litigated.

The Friends of Murray Center, consisting of parents of residents at the facility, is suing to stop the governor from moving forward with the closure of Murray and the dispersal of 270-plus residents.

Quinn announced last year he wanted to close Murray in October 2013. He was successful in shuttering the Jacksonville Developmental Center earlier this year.

Quinn is trying to move residents out of large institutions and into smaller homes. He said not only is it cheaper, but residents have a better quality of life.

Opponents of the closure, including parents, say some residents have disabilities that are too intense to be handled in the group homes.

Illinois Department of Human Services spokeswoman Januari Smith said the agency would comply with Middendorff’s order, but officials still want to close the facility.

“We are committed to rebalancing the system of care for persons with disabilities and have implemented a process to do it safely,” Smith said in an email.

State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, praised Monday’s ruling.

“Today is bad news for Gov. Quinn and excellent news for friends of Murray Center. The safety and well-being of the residents of Murray Center will now be preserved,” Meier said.

The union representing Murray employees said the decision represented “another step toward securing the right of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to choose the services they need in the setting they want.”

“For hundreds of men and women, Murray is home, with skilled and experienced caregivers dedicated to supporting them. State government should listen to Murray residents and their families and drop the push to close Murray now,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|(217) 782-4043

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