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New Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Bill Could Protect Hundreds of Disabled Residents

The abuse of developmentally disabled nursing home residents is an unfortunate reality in our state, but new legislation could help protect thousands of Illinois children and adults from future harm. The Illinois House and Senate recently passed new laws aimed at curbing abuse in nursing homes for people with developmental challenges. Chicago nursing home attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are encouraged by the latest legislative efforts to improve care at area facilities, but unfortunately the legislation does not go far enough. The mistreatment and neglect of disabled nursing home residents is a serious problem in our state and additional safety measures need to be taken in order to protect some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.

For decades, death and neglect have occurred at Illinois nursing homes without consequences. Many facilities successfully hide instances of abuse from regulators, medical examiners, and even family members. Some of the most horrific acts of neglect occurred at Alden Village North, a Chicago nursing home that provides care to nearly 100 children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. In an alarming series of reports, the Chicago Tribune documented a ten-year period of abuse that led to the death of 13 residents. Monitor alarms failed to go off, sick children’s symptoms were ignored, and tracheotomy tubes were dislodged. Children were sent to school in soiled clothing that left them with severe rashes. In one case, a severely disabled 19-year-old on a ventilator complained that staff dropped him on the floor, but the facility failed to follow up. He died one month later. In response to this long-term abuse, the governor ordered state regulators to monitor the care facility. The Illinois Department of Public Health issued fines in excess of $100,000 and revoked the nursing home’s license. However, the home remains open while the decision is under appeal, so developmentally-disabled residents are still at risk.

The series of reforms waiting for Governor Pat Quinn’s approval imposes stricter guidelines on Alden Village North and at least 300 other Illinois nursing homes that care for people with developmental disabilities. The proposed legislation requires nursing facilities to report all deaths to state regulators, as well as local coroners or medical examiners. It increases fines for inadequate care to $50,000 for large facilities and $25,000 for facilities with 16 or less residents. It also imposes legal controls on the use of psychotropic medications, so that these dangerous drugs are only administered when necessary. This bill has swept through the House and Senate, and is now only needs the governor’s signature to become law.

Our nursing home negligence attorneys view the latest reforms as a step in the right direction for disabled children and adults who rely on Illinois nursing homes for care. Through our experience working with the developmentally disabled residents and their families we recognize that these residents have unique needs that are not being adequately served. Unfortunately, budgetary demands may prevent this legislation from reaching far enough. In order put such sweeping nursing home reforms into place, the state needs additional qualified inspectors. Without proper policing, the new laws will not be adequately enforced and the safety of disabled children and residents will continue to be at risk.

Another concern is that the proposed reforms do not require the state to investigate deaths or other unusual incidents once they are reported. Every possible measure needs to be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of all developmentally disabled individuals. This vulnerable population has suffered enough at the hands of negligent nursing homes and they should not be forced to endure any more abuse. Troubled facilities need to be held accountable, or shut down. Even one instance of abuse is one instance too many.