The head of a state agency set up to protect disabled adults has resigned after the News-Democrat reported that the agency did not investigate the deaths of people who were neglected or abused.
William M. Davis, the inspector general for the Department of Human Services, offered his resignation after Gov. Pat Quinn ordered him to meet with Michelle R.B. Saddler, the head of the Department of Human Services, regarding the findings of the stories. His resignation takes effect Aug. 1.
Davis declined to comment Friday afternoon. His successor has not been named.
The resignation came after an investigatory series on June 27-28 in the newspaper that drew the attention of Quinn, who on Friday promised quick action to reform the investigating and operating policies of the Office of the Inspector General for the human services department.
"The governor is looking to go in a new direction," according to a statement from the governor's press office that accompanied an executive order to strengthen protections of people with disabilities around Illinois.
"In Illinois, we believe that every life deserves respect and dignity," Quinn said in the written statement.
The changes include an immediate review of all cases where a disabled adult was the subject of a call to the OIG hotline alleging neglect or abuse and who died soon afterward.
Beginning immediately, all such cases will "be reported, in writing, to local law enforcement and local coroners and medical examiners, and referrals will be documented." This is to ensure that "regardless of the circumstances," the death of a disabled adult who is the subject of a hotline call will be investigated by the OIG, coroner or law enforcement, if necessary.
According to the executive order, the OIG also will:
* Review all deaths of disabled adults since 2003 who were the subject of hotline calls but were not investigated, as the News-Democrat reported in its series. The newspaper reported that 53 disabled adults who had lived at home died after being hospitalized on an emergency basis with no OIG investigation.
* Follow up on the death of any adult with disabilities who is the subject of a pending complaint by contacting the law enforcement agency to find out whether any action was taken. If no action was taken after 45 days, the agency must "notify the Office of the Attorney General in writing."
* Establish an "integrated state and local network" that will allow OIG investigators to work closely with home health providers and caregivers to enhance the investigative capabilities of the agency.
Saddler, the secretary and director of the Human Services Department, said in a news release from the governor's press office, "We recognize the deficiencies within the program and are committed to improving it."
Davis was named inspector general in 2006. He is a state contract employee and collects a pension from his years with the Illinois State Police. He is a former regional commander for the ISP.
After publication of the newspaper's investigation, the OIG initiated a "review and re-evaluation of its practices, policies and role under state law."
Previously, the OIG had interpreted state law to mean that after a disabled person dies, he is "ineligible for services," even when that person had been brought to the attention of the OIG. The agency closed the case without investigating whether abuse or neglect contributed to their deaths.
The newspaper also reported that the agency rejects hundreds of calls for help each year, declaring them "non-reportable" for any of several reasons, including that, in the opinion of a hotline operator, the person was capable of using a telephone and was therefore not impaired enough to qualify for help from the OIG.
State Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, said he thought the plan of bringing coroners and the police quickly into the investigation when a disabled adult dies is one of the strong points of the governor's plan announced Friday.
"I think it's an excellent plan. I'm very impressed by the quick turnaround by the governor and Secretary Saddler of the DHS," Haine said.
State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said Friday afternoon that he hadn't seen the executive order but from a description supplied by a reporter said he thought it sounded like it could affect positive change. As for whether he will push for a convening of the House's Human Services Committee, which he chairs, to inquire into past OIG procedures, he said he needed to study the order to detect "what gaps there may be."
Quinn said Saturday after a news conference on the budget that he was "disturbed" and "disappointed" after he read the newspaper's stories.
"We immediately initiated a top-to-bottom review. We have been meeting with the top officials in DHS. We are looking at the facts and we expect to take action promptly," Brooke Anderson, a Quinn spokeswoman, said at the time.
Januari Smith Trader, spokeswoman for the Human Services Department, could not be reached for comment Friday.
On Wednesday, the News-Democrat reported that the coroners in 10 of the state's largest county as well as the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, could not recall ever receiving a call from the OIG about a disabled person who had died soon after becoming the subject of a hotline call alleging abuse or neglect.
Smith Trader, the department spokeswoman, said in a prepared statement, "The OIG has written evidence that many of these cases were referred to local law enforcement and/or the medical examiner/coroner. In other cases, contact was made but not documented by OIG staff or the receiving entity. This is unacceptable and the OIG recognizes this issue and has swiftly taken steps to strengthen policies and procedures to ensure referrals/notifications are properly documented."