State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, will sponsor in the Senate a measure that would require the Illinois Department of Human Services to immediately contact a coroner and local police when a disabled adult living at home dies and the agency has received a hotline call alleging neglect or abuse of the person.
Citing a Belleville News-Democrat investigation, Haine, a former prosecutor, said it's wrong that the agency's inspector general does not investigate a death on the grounds that a dead person is no longer "eligible for services" from the agency.
"It's been a while since I led an investigation, but I seem to recall from my time as state's attorney that when someone dies, that's usually a good time to ask questions, not close the books," Haine said.
The newspaper reported that since 2003, the inspector general at DHS failed to investigate the deaths of at least 53 disabled adults who were living at home and were hospitalized on an emergency basis, dying soon afterward. These deaths included persons who were bedridden and forced to lie in their own waste.
In a written statement, Haine said, "I have signed on as a sponsor of a bill that ensures the Department of Human Services investigates all cases, like the 53 cases of death that were referenced in the (newspaper) investigative report. We must ensure situations like this are handled responsibly and effectively."
The house bill, HB 6201, was introduced two weeks ago by state Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon. It contains provisions similar to an executive order issued by Gov. Pat Quinn, who has assigned a former high-ranking Chicago police officer as a "special investigator" to overhaul the inspector general's investigative methods.
The newspaper's reporting led to the resignation of Inspector General William M. Davis, a former Illinois State Police regional commander, who left office effective Wednesday.
The issues raised in the newspaper's investigation included hundreds of calls that were not accepted by the agency's hotline operators and were considered "non-reportable." One reason the agency gave for not accepting a hotline call is that if a disabled adult was thought to have the ability to use the telephone, the alleged victim was therefore not considered impaired enough for help from DHS. Hotline operators, who are trained as investigators, made these decisions on the spot, often without speaking to the alleged victim.
On Tuesday, the failure of the OIG to investigate deaths and other issues was the subject of a heated meeting in Chicago of the House's Human Services Committee.
Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said Thursday that he plans to meet next week with Michael McCotter, the former Chicago police officer assigned Quinn as the special investigator, to determine the scope of the probe.