It’s too early to tell whether a resident’s death earlier this month has anything to do with shutdown plans and staffing concerns at Jacksonville Developmental Center. State Rep. Jim Watson (R-Jacksonville, pictured) says while the death of 69-year-old John Long remains under investigation, it remains clear the state is being hasty in trying to move dozens of residents out of Jacksonville by its scheduled Oct. 31 closure date.
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“You’ve got to wait until the investigative report is completed, I think, to pounce,” says Watson. But “we provided funding to keep JDC open for a year. We negotiated the funding so that as the governor transferred residents out, that money would follow them, so there’s no reason to rush things.”
Advocates of keeping Jacksonville open suggest the entry of contract staff members is detrimental to the residents’ well-being and may have contributed to Long’s death. Long choked on a donut Oct. 7. The Illinois Department of Human Services says a 20-year JDC employee was at the scene, performing CPR on Long before he was taken to a Jacksonville hospital. State police are investigating the death.