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WJBD - Local News - Guardian of Wards of State At Murray Center Finds Large Number of Problems at CILA Homes

Guardian of Wards of State At Murray Center Finds Large Number of Problems at CILA Homes

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

The guardian ad litem for the wards of the state at Murray Developmental Center is citing a laundry list of problems with the Community Integrated Living Arrangement or CILA homes where some of the wards have been moved on 'pre-transitional visits'.   

Stewart Freeman says he fears that severe abuse and maybe even a possible premature death could occur in the future if adequate oversight is not maintained.   He said based on his inspections, he has concerns about the placement and welfare of his wards that are unable to communicate and have such severe disabilities that they are vulnerable to abuse or neglect.  Freeman says if the conditions he has seen and heard about exist now, he questions what will happen in 2, 3, or 5 years from now after the scrutiny of the facilities has passed.  

Freeman pointed to one case where a client was not given proper medications for seizures for three days and as a result had a seizure which resulted in a hospitalization.  Freeman noted the client had not had a seizure for three years while housed at the Murray Developmental Center.  

The information is contained in an affidavit Freeman provided for the current federal lawsuit brought by the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled and Murray Center Parents Association. 

Meanwhile, the hearing on the temporary injunction to force the state to keep Murray Center open scheduled for next week in Federal Court in Chicago has been continued until November 4th.  Judge Marvin Aspen cited the number of pre-trial motions that have been filed in the case that need to be handled.  

One of the attorney's for those trying to stop the closure of Murray Center says both sides are disappointed with the additional delay.  Judy Sherwin will be talking to attorneys for the State Friday to see if they can agree on a motion to take to the Judge to speed up the case getting into court.  The state is under two court orders not to move any further residents out of Murray Center without guardian approval pending further action of the court.   

Sherwin calls the affidavit provided by Stewart as very significant in supporting the case to keep Murray and other developmental facilities open.  She notes before Clinton County Judge William Becker appointed Freeman to oversee the wards of the state, the Office of State Guardian was actively involved in the transfers out of Murray Center and not part of the class seeking protection from the courts.   

In the affidavit, Freeman testifies that at least two of his clients should be immediately returned to Murray Center based upon their needs and the conditions in the CILAs.  

As part of his duties, Freeman made unannounced visits to two CILAs in Centralia and one in Mt. Vernon.  He said from what he has discovered to date, he does not have a high opinion of the CILAs and their ability to care for his medically fragile clients and clients with behavioral issues.  Among the problems Freeman found were inadequate security, inadequate staffing with long day and hour shifts, lack of staffing experience, lack of supplies and home supports such as fire proofing, padding, and bedding, unsafe conditions such as exposed hazards, lack of knowledge as to client care, low pay, little training and little to no decoration or personalization for the residents.

Freeman said two former employees of Rescare/CAIL come to his office to discuss their working conditions.   Both described working at the facilities as chaotic.  

One of them, Rhonda Gibson, said she had to purchase personal and household items for residents herself because it was so difficult to get them from her boss.  She said scheduling was left to the last minute and at one point she worked 38 days straight and was 'literally delirious' while working shifts at the end and had an emotional breakdown.  She produced pay stubs indicating that she had worked 140, 150 and even 180 hours over a two week period.  Gibson described an incident where prescribed feeding tube nutrition had run out for one client.  She went to a store and fed the client Ensure for a few days rather than the doctor prescribed nutrition.  

The other former worker, Dylan Altom, indicated he had worked for 36 days straight.  Freeman said Altom had been terminated from a prior care facility for individuals with developmental disabilities amid allegations that he had abused and currently faces a felony charge in connection with the earlier incident.  

Freeman said the person in charge of the CAIL facilities in the Centralia and Mt. Vernon area, Rhonda Harris, called the ex-employees disgruntled workers who are being put up to making allegations by bigger facility competitors who she stated had hired Gibson.        

Freeman says ten of the wards of the state still reside at Murray Developmental Center while 14 others are on pre-transitional visits to CILAs.  He says some of those 'pre-transitional' visits began in early May and others have been in effect for several months.  Freeman also detailed problems with the Illinois Attorney General's office giving him a list of the state wards and providing medical information.   

The President of the Murray Parents Association Rita Winkeler says Freeman's affidavit shows the pitiful services Community Resource Associates and the Department of Human Services are using to house and care for the developmentally disabled.  

The State Department of Human Services has been asked by WJBD news to respond to the alleged poor conditions in the CILA homes as well as what monitoring the state is completing to protect the residents.    

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