hearing12132016CHICAGO – Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding the findings of today’s joint Senate and House hearing about the abuse and neglect of developmentally disabled men and women in taxpayer-funded group homes throughout Illinois:

“Today we heard testimony from a variety of people who care deeply about the well-being and the safety of developmentally disabled men and women throughout Illinois.

“But the State of Illinois is failing these vulnerable residents every day that goes by without implementing comprehensive, meaningful changes to address the root causes of the alarming, gut-wrenching stories documented in the Chicago Tribune’s ‘Suffering in Secret’ series.

“I appreciate the testimony of Secretary Dimas and Inspector General McCotter, as well as the action they already have taken to address problems and their recommendations for changes going forward.

“However, I am disappointed that some of my colleagues in the legislature view this crisis as an opportunity for political finger-pointing rather than a moment for bipartisan cooperation to save lives and pave the way for a better future for vulnerable Illinoisans.

“Let’s not pretend that the solutions to this very serious problem lie in the past. The solutions can only be found in partnership with the current governor and his administration – one that went to great lengths to conceal important information about group home abuse and neglect from the public, from the victims’ families and from the media.

“It is incumbent upon Gov. Rauner to give this crisis the attention it deserves, to put forth a budget for the state of Illinois and to ensure financial and staff resources are put where they’re most desperately needed today.

“Not only does that include working with the Legislature to designate money to properly pay group home caregivers, it also means immediately filling the lapsed gubernatorial appointments on the board that oversees these group homes for developmentally disabled adults.

“All of us – Gov. Rauner, the Legislature, state officials, group home operators and caregivers – have a moral obligation to do all we can to prevent any more instances of the kinds of abuse, neglect and death that were documented by the Tribune.

“My heart goes out to the families that are grappling with the state’s failure to protect their loved ones as it promised to do. It’s clear to me that the time has come for significant changes in what clearly is a flawed system.”

Category: Latest

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.

Category: Latest

Capitol350On Dec. 1 the Legislature concluded the fall veto session with no sign of a balanced budget agreement in sight, even as we quickly approach 2017, at which point stopgap funding for universities, local governments and human service agencies will run out.

As I've said numerous times, this situation is completely unacceptable, with tragic consequences for students, seniors, victims of sexual assault and more.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislative leaders have been meeting to discuss the budget, and that's an encouraging sign. I'm calling on all sides to compromise to end this stalemate. However, we must remember that negotiation can only have a successful outcome if no party is asked to violate its core principles.

Unfortunately, Gov. Rauner consistently has sought to tie budget negotiation to unrelated policy battles where there is simply no hope of agreement between Democrats and Republicans.

I will continue my efforts to find a different path forward, one that is consistent with the values of our community. Stay tuned to hear more from me on that front; read on for a summary of some of a few issues we've encountered recently in Springfield.

Read more: An update from Springfield: Veto session wrap-up

Category: Latest

Biss12012016With the State of Illinois sorely in need of a budget, it’s essential for Democrats in the legislator and Gov. Bruce Rauner to find common ground. Unfortunately, it appears he is determined to obstruct any good-government measure that isn’t attached to his political agenda.

The latest example is automatic voter registration, a sensible cost-savings measure that many Republicans backed – until the governor decided they shouldn't.

The concept of automatic voter registration is simple. Eligible voters would be automatically registered to vote when they conduct business with certain state government agencies, such as the secretary of state to renew a driver’s license. People can choose not to be registered, and there are safeguards to protect against fraud.

Essentially, automatic registration creates a convenient opt-out system for voters, rather than the more burdensome opt-in system that most states, including Illinois, currently have. This reform would have enabled us to curb redundant government paperwork, clean up the voter rolls and enable taxpayers to save time and money.

In fact, automatic registration is such a good idea in this fast-paced, technology-driven age that five other states have adopted it, most recently Republican-leaning Alaska, and more are considering it.

Read more: Things are stuck in Springfield. Here's why.

Category: Latest

Contact Me

District office:
3706 Dempster St.
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 568-1250
(847) 568-1256 FAX

Springfield office:
417B Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-2119

Email:
biss@senatedem.illinois.gov

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