The Pantagraph reported this week on the latest developments in a local case that our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have followed closely. Back in August U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow gave her initial approve to a settlement that had been reached in a case filed on behalf of 20,000 low-income Cook County residents with disabilities. At the heart of the original lawsuit was a claim that these individuals should have living options outside of the nursing homes. Instead, proponents argued, they should be given more resources to live on their own if possible. The 2007 lawsuit was filed by Access Living-a local advocacy group. The group argued in the suit that failure to provide alternative housing options violated the involved individuals’ civil rights. Every Illinois nursing home abuse attorney at our firm understands why these individuals would seek alternative living options, as the vast majority of individuals in these nursing homes would live elsewhere if they had other options.
According to the settlement reached earlier this year, the state of Illinois will provide housing assistance and some other financial support to help residents with disabilities who chose to leave the nursing home where they currently live. These residents will receive security deposit aid, have wheelchair ramps build where appropriate, and make other accommodations which might allow people with physical disabilities to live on their own. In the past this assistance was available to those with developmental and mental illnesses, but not physical disabilities.
More specifically, the first phase of the proposed settlement would involve the state spending $10 million on houses and apartments for upwards of 1,100 current nursing home residents. There would then be a second phase where many more individuals would be aided. Interestingly, advocates argued that while there would be up-front costs, in the long-term the deal would actually save the state money. They suggested that over $2,300 per person could be annually saved by allowing those who are eligible to live in houses and apartments instead of in nursing homes.
Two other similar suits were also filed roughly at the same time. Those lawsuits also involved allegations of improper housing options for people with mental illnesses and disabilities. A similar deal was approved earlier this year in one of those cases which would allow at least 6,000 individuals with disabilities to move into alternative living arrangements. The other suit also reached a settlement earlier this year related to moving 4,500 individuals with mental illnesses out of nursing homes.
Hopefully this latest settlement works as intended, helping resident leave facilities who feel comfortable doing so. It would be a mistake to assume that Illinois nursing home neglect occurs in all settings and that we should get individuals out of them entirely. Some facilities provide great care that is appropriate for those residents who rely on it. However, there remain far too many homes that cut corners, cut staff, and otherwise fail to prioritize resident well-being. Nursing home abuse abounds in those places, and it is completely natural for resources to be spent helping those leave these plans that are able.
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