* Kurt Erickson takes a closer look at the numbers used by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration to justify closing the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, which cares for severely developmentally disabled people…
To bolster their argument, the state says it costs taxpayers $239,000 per year to house residents at Murray. Placing them in private facilities would cost $120,000, they estimate.
The state’s figures, however, are intellectually dishonest. Here’s why.
The cost per resident in fiscal year 2006 when Murray had 342 residents was about $130,000 per year, according to figures provided by the Illinois Auditor General’s office.
In fiscal year 2009, when there were 298 residents, the average cost was listed as $180,000 per year.
Now, with the population down to about 230 residents, the cost has skyrocketed because they haven’t reduced the number of employees at the facility.
In other words, the cost of housing residents in Murray would be significantly cheaper if they actually filled all 372 beds or reduced the number of people working there.
*** UPDATE *** From DHS…
Before Governor Quinn took office, Illinois institutionalized more people than any other state in the nation. We are now changing under the direction of the governor to improve the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities in Illinois.
We are committed to rebalancing and improving Illinois’ system of care for people with developmental disabilities. Evidence strongly suggests that residents living in smaller homes have a better quality of life and participate more in their community. Moving individuals from large, outdated institutions to community settings also saves taxpayer dollars.
To be clear, the article that published last weekend regarding the operational costs of the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia was incomplete and deserves further clarification.
There are several ways to calculate the cost per resident in a state operated developmental center (SODC). The first is a basic calculation that divides the annual spending by the average number of residents. For the Murray Developmental Center, that puts the annual cost per resident at $143,217. The other, more thorough and complete method is based on methodology and reimbursement rates used by the federal government. This method includes costs that are not included in an SODC budget but in the broader state budget, such as medication, retirement contributions, group insurance, worker’s comp, union wage increases and facility improvements. Under this comprehensive and more accurate calculation, the annual cost is about $239,934 per resident at Murray Center and approximately $120,000 in the community.
The article calls into question whether more money could be saved by cutting down the number of staff. But the reason the Illinois Department of Human Services is maintaining employee headcount during the closure process is to ensure a safe and secure transition for remaining residents. So yes, the cost of operation under the simple calculation indeed increases as the closure process continues. However, that is a small and temporary price to pay to ensure a safe facility closure. And once the transition is complete, delivery of care will not only be more cost-efficient, it will also offer people with disabilities a higher quality of life and that’s the point in the first place.
IL Dept. of Human Services
That response twists the essential meaning of Erickson’s piece, which is that DHS and Quinn are using these new numbers to justify closing down a state facility.