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WJBD - Local News - Murray Center Guardian Claims 'Retaliation' In Latest Actions By DHS

Murray Center Guardian Claims 'Retaliation' In Latest Actions By DHS

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

A state contractor has apparently started pulling records of Murray Center residents against the directives of their guardians.  

One of the first five to be pulled is that of the sister of Monica Sobczak.   She is one of those behind a lawsuit filed against Department of Human Services officials in Clinton County Court Monday to give more protections to the wards of the state at Murray Center.  

Sobczak feels the actions to have Community Resource Associates (CRA) review the file are retaliation and is another example of Department of Human Services feeling they are above the law.   

After being tipped off by one of the professionals at Murray about what was going on, Sobczak placed a call to the Assistant Director of Murray Center Rick Starr.  "When I said this is too much of a coincidence that you're starting on Grape Cottage and starting with my sister with the first files pulled he said, 'oh there is no this is no coincidence'.  When I said to him 'Rick this is a violation and this is criminal and there are fines'.  I asked him, 'at what point do you draw the line when your employer asks you do something illegal, you just do it?'  He said 'I'm sorry I felt that way,'"' recalled Sobczak.  

Sobczak said Starr confirmed he was following a directive from the Department of Human Services.  

Sobczak says the Friend's of Murray Center lawyers are already working on bringing the action to the attention of Clinton County Judge Dennis Middendorff.   The judge issued the emergency temporary restraining order on Monday blocking any further transfer of Murray Center residents who are wards of the state without the permission of Attorney Stewart Freeman who he been appointed as their guardian.  The state wards were not covered in an earlier temporary restraining order issued in federal court blocking the movement of any residents without their guardians approval.  

Sobczak says the action is contrary to what DHS officials had told the Murray Parents Association in the past.  "We were told that was a binding directive."  Sobczak feels like she is being bullied by the state and would have little recourse if it wasn't through the strength of the Friend's and Parents organizations.  

State Department of Human Services spokesperson Januari Smith says the department is following the two temporary restraining orders filed against them to a 't'.  She quoted part of Federal Judge Marvin Aspen's restraining order in explaining the actions on Tuesday.  The sentence reads "Nothing in this order shall restrict or prohibit defendants from conducting any pre-transition assessments, evaluations, or any other planning activities."  

Smith says the department makes assessments of residents on a regular basis.  She reports CRA, as a vendor of the state of Illinois, has the ability to act on the state's behalf and their review of the contents of residents files would not be a violation of HIPAA law on release of medical records.  

A hearing on the emergency temporary restraining order involving the wards of the state in Clinton County is scheduled for August 8th at nine am.  A hearing on the federal restraining order for residents with guardians is scheduled for September ninth.  

Smith says the state remains committed to rebalancing the system of care for persons with disabilities and have implemented a process to do it safely.  She reports they look forward to presenting their case in court.  Governor Quinn's plan is to close Murray Center this fall.     

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