Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers previously reported on a high-profile legal settlement regarding care for Illinoisans with mental disabilities living in state nursing homes. The original case was filed on behalf of those residents who desired and were capable of living on their own or in community-based programs instead of the more institution-like nursing home. Each Illinois nursing home attorney at our firm appreciates that the skilled nursing facility is often not the first choice of living location for residents of all ages and vulnerabilities. However, there is a fine line between having close care that is absolutely necessary and being forced into one of these locations because one has no other feasible financial choice.
The original 2010 settlement involved state officials agreeing to offer community-based housing and treatment to adults in the state with mental illnesses who were living in “Institutions for Mental Diseases” (IMDs). As part of the consent decree in the case, the state has five years to screen residents who desire to move out of the IMD. Following the screening, participating residents will move into subsidized apartments or group homes to receive therapy and necessary treatment in the community.
Yet, according to a new report from the Chicago Tribune, the transition is proceeding slower than expected. The original target was set at moving 256 residents in the first year. So far, however, only 45 have actually moved or signed a lease to move into a new location.
It remains a bit unclear why the moving process has proceeded slower than expected. State officials explain that they have offered placements to 256 residents, but many have not taken them up on the offer.
State officials are clear in noting that there is nothing underhanded about the slow start, mentioning that “This is a learning process for all of us. While there’s room for improvement, we’re meeting our obligations and finding the people and helping them make their plans for transition to the community.”
Recently, an independent monitor issued a report to the court identifying ways that the process needs to be improved. These monitor are often used in cases such as this, involving injunctive relief against a public entity. According to the report, the state was slowing in starting the resident evaluation problem, in part because of the difficulty in hiring and retaining qualified workers to actually conduct the evaluations. In addition, there was unanticipated difficulty in getting cooperation from residents themselves–many of whom do not want to be evaluated and were deemed ineligible for community placement.
The monitored raised some question marks about the 50% rate of “negative evaluations”–or decisions by the evaluators that the resident is not a match for community placement. The high rate was particularly startling considering the first group evaluated were supposed to be those with less severe illnesses.
Each Chicago nursing home lawyer at our firm understands the sensitive nature of this process. This situation is indicative of the challenges of crafting large, one-size-fits-all decisions for residents with various needs. Many seek to avoid these facilities out of fears of nursing home abuse. Others want to stay out of the home because they do not fit the “model” of an elderly individual and feel more comfortable in community settings. In any event, it is crucial that we all work toward finding tailored fits for individuals of all ages, illnesses, and disabilities.
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