With so much focus on preventing abuse of children, many forget the vulnerability of adults with disabilities. However, like children and the elderly, adults with physical or mental disabilities can be subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuse. A recent report in The Chicago Tribune found mistreatment of adults with disabilities while in group homes.
The state has moved away from housing disabled adults in large, state-run facilities. More individuals are being housed in group homes of up to 8 adults, in regular houses or apartments, known as Community Integrated Living Arrangements. Group homes are seen as a more cost-effective option, at less than half the cost of care for a resident in an institution.
The Tribune's investigation found more than 1,300 cases of harm in group homes for adults with disabilities since July 2011. These cases were documented by the Illinois Department of Human Services, and obtained by reporters who had requested more than 100 public records requests. However, reporters had to create their own databases of information because the state records were so heavily redacted.
The investigation found at least 42 deaths in group homes related to abuse or neglect. Specifically, group home residents died from choking, bedsore infections, untreated medical illnesses, and food poisoning. In one case, a 50-year-old man with learning disabilities was left to sleep in a storage room on a soiled mattress. After his death, a state investigation found evidence of neglect; however, the investigation was closed without ever reporting the findings to the man's family.
Other cases of suspected abuse include a woman bound with duct tape by employees who left the woman on the floor for hours. Another group home resident was beaten to death by a caregiver for allegedly stealing cookies. After another woman died after suffering serious burn injuries in a scalding bath while the caregiver delayed seeking medical attention.
Many of the cases of neglect or abuse were related to inadequate staffing, with care delegated to inexperienced employees with little training. Despite this, the state often left the group home employees to do their own investigations into allegations of abuse or neglect.
While nursing home laws require Illinois facilities to maintain reports and surveys for government inspection, state officials do not disclose the locations of more than 3,000 group homes, nor reports of abuse, neglect, or enforcement actions.
Once the Tribune's investigation was presented to the Department of Human Services, Secretary James Dimas has said he will push for changes to the way group home abuse allegations are handled. “My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on,” said Dimas.
If you suspect a loved one is being subjected to mental, physical, or sexual abuse, you report the suspected abuse and contact your attorney. You may not be able to rely on government regulators to prevent neglect and keep your loved one's safe. Speak with an experienced Illinois attorney who understands how to prevent abuse of the elderly and disabled. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.