Investigation Shows 1,000+ Cases of Abuse and Neglect of Illinois Adults with Disabilities

CHICAGO —  As Illinois welcomes thousands of low-income adults with disabilities into private group homes, many cases of abuse and neglect come to light.

A newspaper investigation found more than a thousand cases of abuse and neglect of Illinois adults with disabilities who were placed into private group homes. At least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years have been found.

The Chicago Tribune has exposed a shameful secret in Illinois as part of an in-depth report into the state’s handling of low-income adults with disabilities.

“The house had no address; the dead man had no name. Illinois officials blacked out those details from their investigative report. Nobody else was supposed to learn the man’s identity or the location of the state-funded facility where his body was found. The investigation was closed as it began, with no public disclosure, and the report was filed away, one of thousands that portray a hidden world of misery and harm. No one would know that Thomas Powers died at 3300 Essington Road in unincorporated Joliet, in a group home managed for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities …

The Tribune (http://trib.in/2g11bPH ) says its investigation revealed mistreatment inside Illinois’ taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs, with caregivers failing to provide basic care while regulators conceal harm and death with secrecy and silence.

Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show.

Thomas Powers was one of those unfortunate cases. He died in a Joliet group home for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Grieving relatives of Powers didn’t know there was evidence found of neglect, which included an instance of the 50-year-old, with the intellect of a small child, being forced to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor in a room for storage.

The Chicago Tribune’s investigation also shows 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois’ Department of Human Services.

Lawmakers finally take action, but Rauner vetoes: ‘Responding to what group home owners call a staffing crisis, state lawmakers in both houses this summer overwhelmingly approved $330 million in funding to boost pay for caregivers. But Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure in August, citing a lack of state funds. The Tribune also found that the group home industry is exempt from basic staffing standards required elsewhere in the state’s long-term care system. Nursing homes, state institutions and other extended-care facilities are required by law to employ on-site registered nurses who can detect and react to sudden changes in patient conditions. Even low-level employees must be state-certified aides who update skills through continuing education.” http://trib.in/2fJKcia

Other incidents similar or worse than Powers’ experience have also been revealed.

A male group resident was beaten to death by his caregiver after being accused of stealing cookies.

Employees at another home abused a female resident by binding her hands and ankles with duct tape, and covering her head with a blanket and leaving her on a kitchen floor for several hours.

In many of these cases, the health and safety of residents has been left to unlicensed and scantly trained employees. The death toll has risen due to caregivers failing to promptly call 911, perform CPR or respond to medical emergencies.

The department in many instances let the group homes investigate allegations of neglect and mental abuse in their own workplaces, the Chicago Tribune found.

Human Services officials retracted five years of erroneous reports after confronted with The Chicago Tribune’s findings and said the department had launched reforms to ensure accurate reporting.

The investigation results from the Chicago Tribune have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations.

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