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Illinois group homes still troubled despite reform promise

February 23, 2018

CHICAGO (AP) — A newspaper investigation has found that despite Illinois officials’ promise to reform troubled group homes for disabled adults, allegations of abuse and neglect have risen, staffing levels have fallen and state oversight has been slow.

State officials and legislators pledged to fix the system after a 2016 Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that the state concealed evidence of harm and death at group homes.

In a follow-up investigation, the newspaper obtained state enforcement records that show many group homes are still unprepared. According to the Tribune, more than half of group homes aren’t wheelchair accessible. More than 1,600 homes are not compliant with the American Disabilities Act, inspection records show.

The newspaper also found that state oversight remains inconsistent. Some victims waited weeks before they were interviewed by state investigators, audit records from fiscal 2017 show.

Staffing shortages also continue to affect the industry, according to some group home owners.

According to the state’s Office of Auditor General, allegations of abuse and neglect reached a record high with more than 3,600 cases in fiscal year 2017.

The Illinois Department of Human Services said reforms set to launch this year will address some of those issues.

An online scorecard will rank group homes and will include inspection results and links to online copies of investigative findings involving abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. But state officials will black out addresses to protect patients’ privacy.

Spokeswoman Meghan Powers said copies of investigative report summaries can be downloaded. She said officials are also planning to change state policy so that families of group home residents automatically receive copies of state investigations.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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