Thursday, Dec 12, 2013
Fight to Keep Murray Center Open Gets New Help
CENTRALIA -- Parents of Murray residents have some new, powerful evidence in their lawsuit trying to keep the center open. An attorney says he's documented poor care that several people who used to live at the center are receiving at new community homes.
Attorney Stewart Freeman was appointed guardian for several Murray residents who are wards of the state. He made unannounced visits to several community homes called CILAs in Centralia and Mt. Vernon. The Murray Parents Association says what he saw is shocking.
It only took six visits to different CILAs to leave a bad impression on Freeman. In a scathing letter, criticizing the care of his wards, he wrote:
"Based upon what I have discovered to date, I do not have a high opinion of the CILAs and their ability to care for my medically fragile clients and clients with behavioral issues."
President of the Murray Parents Association Rita Winkeler says, "These people, most of them could not talk. They have no one to defend them. They do not have family, they are wards of the state."
Winkeler says she was shocked when Freeman described how one client was hospitalized from a seizure after not receiving proper medication for three days because of a shortage. Or when a staff member told him about a nutrition shortage for another client, who was given Ensure through a feeding tube instead. A staff worker also showed Freeman pay stubs documenting she worked 140 to 180 hours within two weeks.
"I think the whole thing just broke my heart, because I know some of those people they moved, they cannot defend themselves," she says. "And if we don't defend them, and the very people, DHS, who are supposed to be the people defending them, don't care."
The Department of Human Services says they are taking the allegations seriously, but don't believe this is the case with all of the community houses.
"IDHS executive staff members have visited these CILAs and have experienced first-hand how well the individuals are doing," explains Communications Director Januari Smith.
She says DHS has asked a third party, Equip for Equality, to investigate the situations and report back to the department.
Winkeler says the move is a joke, since that company supports closing Murray. But she believes this affidavit will help the federal lawsuit to keep Murray open.
"Oh, I think it's definitely a huge advantage for our case, because this is showing the judge that the federal rights of these people who are being moved from the Murray Center are definitely being violated."
The two sides were supposed to go to court on Tuesday for a long-awaited injunction hearing, but several last-minute filings from the state and the threat of a government shut down pushed back the hearing date until November.
Freeman did not want to go on camera for this story.
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