Biss 350On the heels of a published report detailing the unchecked abuse and neglect of developmentally disabled men and women throughout Illinois, members of the Senate Human Services Committee have launched an inquiry into what happened and why.

The committee will convene jointly with the House Human Services Committee at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, in Room C600 of the Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle St., Chicago. This is a public hearing.

“I am appalled by what I read in the Chicago Tribune’s ‘Suffering in Secret’ investigation,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and chairman of the Senate’s Human Services Committee. “Innocent people are being harmed and even killed in homes that are supposed to be safe, while the people who are supposed to be protecting them look the other way. I won’t stand for it.”

James Dimas, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, and Michael McCotter, inspector general for the agency, will testify about the revelations of abuse and neglect, the state’s internal investigative process, and what can be done to correct the problems.

A team of reporters at the Chicago Tribune unearthed 1,311 cases of documented harm to developmentally disabled Illinoisans since July 2011 and evidence of 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes in the past seven years.

The investigation identified numerous contributing factors:

  • Understaffing, low wages and inadequate training for caregivers
  • Inattention to clients and instructions for their care
  • Lack of oversight of group homes and the companies that run them
  • Missing or falsified documentation pertaining to clients and their care
  • Absence of accountability at all levels
  • Concentrated effort by state officials to conceal records from victims’ families and taxpayers
  • Shoddy investigations by the inspector general and other state officials

“The Tribune’s investigation is a gut-wrenching tale of what happens when government leaders are focused exclusively on cutting costs and keeping salaries low rather than simultaneously demanding that our budget enable the provisions of adequate human service programs,” Biss said.

“Clearly, Gov. Rauner is ignoring the human cost of what he calls turning around Illinois. I want to know what his administration will do to fix things and protect these vulnerable people and their families.”

Also scheduled to testify at the hearing are Zena Naiditch, president and CEO of Equip for Equality; Josh Evans, vice president of government relations for the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities; Kathy Carmody, CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities; Tony Paulauski, executive director of Arc of Illinois; and a family member of a developmentally disabled adult who lives in community housing.

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