Guest opinion by State Representative Charlie Meier
Throughout the federal hearing last week in Chicago regarding the future of Murray Center and the residents who depend on it, officials with the state of Illinois attempted to portray those fighting for Murray to stay open as just trying to save their jobs. They attempted to make it seem like the Murray Parents Association is somehow profiting by keeping the center open. Aside from being insulting, it ignores just how many folks have and will indeed continue to profit from its closure.
For example, Community Resource Associates, Inc. (CRA), the company hired by the state of Illinois to assess each resident and transition them to a CILA, has already made a pretty penny off Governor Quinn’s “Rebalancing Initiative.”
CRA has a contract with the state that pays them $180,000 per month. They’ve been paid that going all the way back to January 2012. The state of Illinois has paid CRA a total of $4,062,992 to date.
Officials from CRA have admitted under oath it only takes about five to six hours to construct a transfer plan for a resident. By my math, if you take the $4-plus million they’ve been paid, divide that by the 230 residents they’ve constructed plans for, and then divide that number by six hours, you find that CRA has been making $2,944.20 per hour. Not a bad wage.
But how did CRA get in a position to get such a lucrative contract? The fact it’s a Missouri corporation ran out of a basement home office in Des Peres, Mo., with just four employees would seemingly make CRA an unlikely candidate. Well, Mark Doyle, who works for the Governor, has been put in charge of making sure Murray Center closes. Mark Doyle hired CRA without bidding the contract out to anyone else. Mark Doyle used to work for Derrick Dufresne, who is the owner of CRA. It’s all who you know in Illinois …
The plan formulated by CRA to transfer residents to CILAs also will make other folks a lot of money. For example, there’s Jackie Jakes who owns SSS, a CILA provider. Jakes, who also conveniently enough works for CRA, was asked to help with the transitions. So not only does she work for CRA, she owns CILAs that will be used to house residents.
Let’s not forget Tony Pulaski, the Executive Director of Arc for Illinois. He has been a vocal advocate for closing Murray Center. However, various chapters of Arc of Illinois also, conveniently enough, own CILAs. In fact, some of those chapters of Arc of Illinois own quite a few CILAs and will make a significant amount of money as Mr. Pulaski continues his fight to close all state operated developmental centers (SODCs). This might explain the award Arc of Illinois gave the Governor for his work shutting down the state’s SODCs.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) is also helping CRA by financially rewarding employees that help in the closure process. Acting Director of Murray Center Rick Starr testified he was given a 25 percent pay increase to be a liaison between Murray Parents and CRA, but he was to be quiet about CRA and their plans. “Keep CRA under the radar” he was told by Doyle. Starr also said Doyle promised Starr the assistant director position at Choate Mental Health Center in Anna, Illinois.
But how can we know that nearly all Murray Center residents will be forced out of institutional living into CILAs if Murray is closed? It is clear the residents cannot be transferred to other SODCs because there simply are not enough beds available at the remaining institutions. And numerous officials with CRA have testified both in Clinton County court and the federal court in Chicago that all plans written by CRA will result in a recommendation to send the resident to a CILA. CRA is being paid to only recommend CILAs.
Putting aside how much CRA will financially benefit from this plan for a moment, you’d think that CILAs are wonderful places to live, based upon the amount of effort put forth by the Governor and CRA to move Murray residents to them. However, that is even in question.
Meier questions quality of CILA living
Greg Shaver testified in the federal hearing that a residence he once owned and spent a considerable amount of money attempting to make healthy to live in has been turned into a CILA. Shaver said the house sits on a spring and constantly had problems with mold and other issues. Shaver said he eventually sold the home, after $38,000 couldn’t fix the problems, to, in his words, “Centralia’s largest slumlord.” That “slumlord” later leased the home to become a CILA.
Additionally, when asked if he would live in that CILA, Acting Director of Murray Center Rick Starr said “if I had to.” This answer implies he would if given no other choice, which is precisely what the state of Illinois is telling residents and their guardians. The state is giving these folks no other options and is forcing them to live in a place they wouldn’t voluntarily choose to live under normal circumstances.
Murray Center residents and their guardians will have even less choice in the matter over placement, because, as Mark Doyle testified, he told Jack Lavin, who was Chief of Staff for the Governor at the time, that Centralia is too unfriendly of an area and that no more CILA homes should be developed there. When asked if he felt it was important for the Murray Parents to know that when going through CRA’s assessment process, Doyle said no.
So now we have state officials, working directly and closely with the Governor, conspiring to keep information from the guardians of the residents at Murray Center. But the lies and deceit didn’t stop there.
The guardians of many residents at Murray Center do not consent to CRA looking at their loved ones’ medical files and charts. They didn’t want CRA officials to have access to that information. Dr. Michael Mayer, who owns Community Resource Alliance (not to be confused with Community Resource Associates), testified that as a result Murray Employees wouldn’t work with CRA. However, since guardians were refusing CRA access to resident’s charts, Murray employees feared being fired or fined for HIPAA violations if they allowed CRA access.
When it became obvious CRA would not be given permission from the residents’ guardians, Mark Doyle emailed Jack Lavin and said the state would move forward in reviewing residents’ charts without guardian consent. DHS Director Kevin Casey testified that it was the state’s duty to open up the medical files of the residents and override the guardian’s rights because the guardians weren’t letting the state see the files.
By the way, Mr. Mayer, the owner of Community Resource Alliance (“CR Alliance”), consults with Mr. Dufresne’s CRA in implementing the assessment process. CR Alliance is a North Carolina company that is also registered to do business in Missouri. CR Alliance’s registered agent’s address is Mr. Dufresne’s home basement office in Des Peres, Mo. Curiously, CR Alliance’s entity creation date in the state of Missouri was June 6, 2011, some five months before the Governor announced his “Rebalancing Initiative” in November 2011. I suspect this not-so-well-orchestrated plot to deceive guardians was developed long before the Governor announced his initiative.
Why should the guardians believe what DHS and CRA tell them? They’ve been lied to all along throughout this process.
For example, despite promises, there has not been constant one-on-one care for residents that have already been moved out of Murray. If DHS can’t keep that promise with the first 14 residents moved out of Murray Center, how can they keep it with the next 200 or more?
Casey stated having a nurse on call was the same as having a nurse at Murray. He also stated that if a nurse was on call, they could be at the CILA in 10 to 15 minutes. This is unlikely as many are coming from other communities and not from the area where the CILA is located.
Guardians being misled
Also, guardians have been misled about their options for their loved ones. While CRA will constantly recommend CILAs, DHS has told them their loved ones could be transferred to other SODCs. However, despite Casey testifying that DHS does not have plans to close another facility, Mark Doyle has been quoted in the past as saying all SODCs will eventually be closed.
The proof Casey and DHS are being disingenuous about their plans for additional SODC closings is a matter of simple math. The Governor’s initiative calls the number of residents being served by SODCs to be reduced by “at least 600” by the end of fiscal year 2014. Even if all individuals from Jacksonville and Murray were transitioned out of SODC care, there is still a balance of approximately 178 individuals to meet the governor’s 600-individual quota.
So if there are no SODC’s available, and guardians don’t want to place their loved ones in CILAs, where are these residents supposed to go? Will they be like the residents of Jacksonville Developmental Center that have been transferred from place to place so much DHS officials call them “Boomerangs”?
Or will DHS and Director Casey just decide where to place them, as he did with one Murray resident I’ll call “J”?
“J” was moved from Murray to a CILA by her parents, who are her guardians. Her parents were guaranteed by DHS that if she moved out early she would have access to one of the good CILAs (seemingly contrasted with the “bad” CILAs). Within three weeks she was put on three different new medications to control her without guardian consent. J was prone to violent outbursts and damaged some of the drywall in the CILA.
A CILA employee stated they would put up thicker drywall so that J would injure herself before she hurt the drywall next time. J was eventually taken to the hospital, but her parents weren’t even notified. Later, the CILA said it wouldn’t take her back and she was moved to another SODC, again without parental consent. Only after she was moved were the parents were notified.
Director Kevin Casey said DHS wouldn’t move any residents without parental permission, but that was proven untrue in the case of J.
DHS has also lied by omission. Despite having received the report by Equip for Equality back on October 23 about the already transferred Murray Center residents, DHS sat on it until late December. This effectively precluded the Murray Parents Association from deposing or subpoenaing for the federal hearings anyone from Equip for Equality responsible for the report. This is commonly referred to as “sandbagging.”
It was proven in Chicago that promises made by DHS have not been kept, and my fear is that once the light is off of this situation, it’ll be far worse.
It was obvious during the federal hearing that officials with the state have nothing but contempt for the Murray Parents, Friends for Murray Center, and other individuals fighting to protect loved ones and keep this closure from happening. All of the witnesses for the Murray Parents were called unqualified liars by the Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ioppolo. He also referred to residents as “inmates.”
Easter will happen at Murray Center. The residents will be able to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Our hope is that the federal hearing was the beginning of the resurrection of Murray Center from what was perceived as its death at the hands of the Governor.