Quinn wants new agency to protect homebound disabled adults

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a new state agency — the Adult Protective Services Unit — to replace the
Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services, which has failed to investigate many
cases of abuse and neglect that led to the deaths of disabled adults who lived at home.
“Gov. Quinn has made this a priority, has dedicated staff to the issue, and we’ve been busy examining and
reviewing best practices not only in Illinois but across the country,” said Quinn’s spokeswoman Brooke
“We didn’t want to tweak around the edges here,” Anderson said, “even fixing the OIG problems wouldn’t
give us the comprehensive solution that the governor is looking for.”
The purpose of the new unit would primarily be to prevent abuse and neglect of disabled persons age 18 to
59, and thoroughly investigate when abuse can be confirmed, especially when it leads to a death.
“We are committed to working with legislators and advocates to get this done,” Anderson said.
Concern about the operations of the 54-employee, $5 million budget, inspector general’s office led to a
series published in late June in the Belleville News-Democrat called “Hidden suffering, hidden death.” The
newspaper reported that since 2003, at least 53 homebound disabled adults died shortly after being taken
to a hospital emergency room following calls to a statewide hotline that they were being abused or
neglected. Many of the disabled died after suffering horrendous neglect and abuse. The agency’s reason
for not investigating was, “The dead are ineligible for services.”
The series also reported that hundreds of calls to the hotline were not accepted by the OIG, which deemed
them “non-reportable,” and that only a handful of adults were removed from abusive settings each year.
The articles led to the resignation in August of Inspector General William M. Davis, a former Illinois State
Police regional commander, and the issuance of an executive order from Quinn directing that the agency’s
policies and regulations be completely revamped.
Whether the proposed unit would cost more or if the OIG’s current 54 employees would be used to staff it,
have not been worked out.
“This will be a broad, comprehensive overhaul that addresses law enforcement, oversight, hotline issues,
etc. Operational plans are still being worked out and will be released in the coming weeks with the
governor’s full plan,” Anderson said.
Problems with the OIG were discussed Friday during a daylong teleconference among about two dozen
state officials from several agencies, legislators and advocates for the disabled.
A recent report by “special investigator” Mike McCotter, a former Chicago chief of detectives appointed by
Quinn, recommended that the agency’s contingent of six investigators be doubled and given extensive
training. McCotter’s report stated that much of the previous work of the OIG investigators could not be
characterized as professional investigations.Quinn wants new agenc1y0t/o22p/r1o2tect homebound disabled adults | Metro-east news | News Democrat
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State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who participated in the teleconference, said much of the discussion was
centered on preventing abuse and neglect and not necessaily concentrating on investigating deaths.
“Two models were discussed,” said Harris, chairman of the house Human Services Committee which held an
extensive hearing in Chicago in July that included the questioning of OIG administrators and Michelle R. B.
Saddler, the director of DHS. The two methods were:
* Operating the new unit like the Illinois Department for the Aging, which has the duty of protecting persons
who are at least 60 years old. This department pays community-based agencies to care for the elderly at
home and investigate neglect and abuse.
* Continuing it as an “internal function of government” but with much stricter guidelines aimed at protecting
disabled people, as opposed to focusing on investigating when they die from neglect or abuse.
Harris said that some of the teleconference participants were appalled at the suffering reported in the BND.
“They asked, “How can we have had these failings?'” he said. “Was it from too high a case load, inadequate
training, inadequate supervision? Or, could it have just been from the top down? We had this inspector
general, who believed that, well, they’re dead, they’re no longer eligible for services.”
Harris said Davis, the former inspector general, also failed to make sure his agency properly reported
deaths of institutionalized disabled persons at group homes operated by the now defunct Graywood
Foundation in Charleston in Coles County.
“He said the law did not require us to report this horrific abuse of people with disabilities therefore we did
not do it. If that’s the culture from the top, then maybe at the bottom it was discouraging to the other
workers,” Harris said.
State Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, has followed the issue since June, and said Friday he has proposed
legislation that could improve the OIG, or assist with its replacement. The soonest he could present it in the
legislature is in mid November.
“I support the governor’s office efforts in this regard,” Haine said, although he had not yet heard of Quinn’s
new unit.
Haine’s proposal, which he said has the support of the state’s coroners and state’s attorneys associations,
would establish a “strict protocol” or method of operation for any agency charged with protecting disabled
adults who live at home.
He said that instead of focusing on investigating the dead, his plan would encourage police officers to be
called to hospital emergency rooms whenever a disabled person is brought in who shows significant signs
of abuse or neglect. The proposal also would set up a network of agencies that could work together to spot
and prevent mistreatment of the disabled.
“This would give them a definable mission,” Haine said.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 239-2625. Contact reporter Beth
Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570