An Illinois lawmaker has introduced legislation that would require the state Department of Human Services to contact police and the coroner if a disabled person dies after the agency received a hotline report alleging the person was abused or neglected.
The legislation filed by Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, is a response to a News-Democrat investigation that found that the Department of Human Services and its inspector general did not conduct investigations in numerous deaths.
The agency's inspector general has 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 inspector general. The newspaper reported that 53 disabled adults in Illinois who had lived at home died after being hospitalized on an emergency basis with no investigation by the agency's inspector general.
Kay's bill amends the Abuse of Adults with Disabilities Intervention Act to state that "upon the death of an adult with disabilities, where a complaint or report of alleged abuse, neglect, or exploitation was made prior to the person's death pursuant to the Act, regardless of whether the complaint or report was substantiated or unsubstantiated, and regardless of whether consent was given for an assessment, the Office of Inspector General designated by the Department of Human Services shall immediately report the matter to the appropriate law enforcement agency and coroner or medical examiner."
The bill also would require on-site visits to the homes of adults with disabilities, when the agency receives a report of the person potentially being abused or neglected. Current law says the state "may" conduct a visit to the home, rather than "shall."
"It's obvious that changes need to be made regarding how cases of abuse and neglect are handled by the (inspector general) and Department of Human Services. I filed House Bill 6201 to make sure the developmentally disabled are not allowed to slip through the cracks and that any potential abuse is taken extremely seriously," Kay said.
DHS issued a statement Wednesday in response to the legislation: "We share Rep. Kay's concerns and are thoroughly reviewing his legislation. The legislation mirrors Gov. Quinn's recent executive order, which strengthens protections for adults who have disabilities. Gov. Quinn's executive order enhances reporting procedures, calls for a review of all deaths of an adult with disabilities who was the subject of a pending investigation by the OIG since 2003, and orders all cases involving death, regardless of allegations, be referred to local law enforcement."
The statement continued: "We have recognized the deficiencies within the program and are committed to improving it and will implement further reforms as necessary."
The News-Democrat's investigation has resulted in the resignation of Inspector General William Davis, as well as the issuance of an executive order by Gov. Pat Quinn revamping the agency's policies and calling for a review of past cases.
Kay said the situation is "one of the few times when government needs to be deeply involved and play an active role. We've seen the unfortunate effects when government doesn't participate the way it should. This is badly needed legislation. I plan to do everything possible to ensure that a hearing is conducted during veto session this fall, so we can get it implemented just that much faster."
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2511.