Judge Issues Ruling to Close Murray Center

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By Matthew Searcy

CENTRALIA -- They're patients suffering from severe mental and physical disabilities, and they may soon lose the place they call home. 

"This is like moving an elderly person to a totally different environment or uprooting a baby from their family," explained Murray Parents Association president, Rita Winkeler. 
 
She disagrees with a federal judge's ruling which will shut down the Murray Center. She says residents, like her son, will suffer irreparable harm from the closure.   
 
"My son is a baby in a big person's body, and yeah, we will have a lot of deaths from this," said Winkeler.
 
Under the federal ruling, patients must be offered the option of being transferred to large nursing care facilities. However, there are few of those remaining in the state and openings are hard to come by. 
 
"Within a 45 mile range from here we might have 20 or 30 beds available," explained Winkeler. "That is all, and we still have 220 people that live at the Murray Center."
     
The ruling could force some patients and their loved ones to move out of state to receive care.  
 
Centralia City Councilman David Sauer says patients won't be the only ones leaving.
 
"We already have a lot of people that need jobs. You can't add 520 people to the unemployed work force."
     
The Murray Center provides more than 500 jobs to a county of about 40,000 residents. If Cook County were to lose a proportionate number, more than 70,000 people would be unemployed.  
     
"I believe the Illinois government is addressing their economic problems and their mismanagement upon the residents of the Murray Center," explained Sauer.
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