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A TROUBLED TRANSITION: In the rush to close institutions, Illinois ignored serious problems in group homes.

Mark Winkeler needs 24-hour care and has lived his entire adult life at Murray Developmental Center. His mother, Rita, and others sued when the Quinn administration sought to close Murray and move residents into group homes.  (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

By Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan

Adults with mild disabilities were the most coveted.

In April 2012, as Illinois moved to close several state institutions and relocate adults with disabilities into the community, representatives from group home businesses gathered inside the Jacksonville Developmental Center for a hastily organized auction.

A state official read aloud medical histories of residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, prompting group home officials to raise their hands for desired picks.

Group home operators knew that then-Gov. Pat Quinn wanted to empty Jacksonville quickly — before any serious union or community opposition could be mounted — but some were taken aback by what they saw as a dehumanizing approach. “We were appalled by the auction,” said Art Dykstra, executive director of Trinity Services, the state’s largest group home provider.

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