The Illinois Department on Aging will be asked to help carry out reforms to protect disabled adults who live at home and investigate when they are neglected or abused, according to a proposal announced Friday by Gov. Pat Quinn.
And Quinn named Michael McCotter, a former deputy chief of detectives with the Chicago Police Department, as the new inspector general for the embattled agency charged with protecting disabled adults -- the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services. He replaces staff attorney Daniel Dyslin who served as interim inspector general following the resignation in August of Willam M. Davis.
"Michael McCotter's strong law enforcement experience and dedication to reform will help ensure that any abuse and neglect suffered by citizens with disabilities in Illinois is rooted out quickly and punished appropriately," Quinn said in a written statement.
The agency came under fire in late June following a series of stories in the Belleville News-Democrat that reported that the deaths of 53 disabled adults who lived at home were not investigated by the agency even though calls had been made to a state hotline alleging their abuse or neglect. In documents obtained by the newspaper, the reason given for not investigating was that, "...the dead are ineligible for services."
The BND also reported that hundreds of calls for help to the hotline were rejected as "non-reportable" and that even when cases were investigated and mistreatment confirmed the disabled adult was left in the same home.
In July, following an executive order from Quinn to revamp the way investigations were carried out including immediately notifying police when criminal abuse or neglect of a disabled adult is suspected, McCotter was directed to conduct his own probe of the deaths. He concluded that many of the investigations did not meet professional standards and recommended adding investigators to the five-person disabled adult staff.
"We are developing this along with members of the legislature ... It would need a majority vote in both the House and the Senate," said Michael Gelder, senior health policy adviser to Quinn.
"The Department on Aging already operates a program very successfully that deals with the neglect and abuse of elder adults. They have a model and an infrastructure already set up," he said.
Previously, disabled adults age 18 to 59 who live at home fell solely under the jurisdiction of the OIG for DHS. However, protection and investigation of disabled adults who live in private or state run facilities will remain with the OIG for DHS.
"We haven't figured out the transfer of resources, who would stay at DHS and who would come over to the Department on Aging," Gelder said.
Brooke Anderson, spokeswoman for Quinn, said the governor's staff, working with legislators, could have proposed legislation ready to be introduced in the so-called "lame duck" session in early January.
"We are 100 percent committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected," Anderson said, "This is definitely a good day for reform and progress in Illinois."
Three legislators were cited by the governor's office as helping to formulate the new agency that is tentatively called the Adult Protective Services Unit. They are state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, and state Reps. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and Patty Bellock, R-Westmont.
"I hope this does what the other set-up failed to do," said Harris. "This approach has built-in strengths, mainly that local people are the investigators and have been working with police and prosecutors who are already in place," Harris said, referring to the Department on Aging's strategy of using community-based groups to monitor the elderly. The Southern Illinois Visiting Nurse Association has served in that capacity.
"Hopefully this approach can be expanded to do the same thing for the disabled," Harris said.