State Rep. Greg Harris may introduce legislation as early as Wednesday that will officially transfer the responsibility for protecting homebound disabled adults to the Illinois Department on Aging.
The new unit would be called Adult Protective Services and would be assigned to oversee the care of disabled adults who live at home and who are 18 to 59.
It would use the hundreds of employees, including nurses and other health professionals, at 41 private and nonprofit organizations that already are in place working to protect seniors aged 60 and above for the Illinois Department on Aging.
The proposed state law, now in the draft stage, resulted from a series of articles in the Belleville News-Democrat first published in June. The articles, which outlined the failure of the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services to investigate the deaths of 53 disabled adults, prompted Gov. Pat Quinn to issue an executive order calling for reforms to strengthen protections of people with disabilities around Illinois. The stories also outlined the failure of the agency to protect disabled adults still living in a private setting.
Disabled adults who reside in state or private facilities would not be affected by the new proposal and will remain under the oversight of the Department of Human Services.
The newspaper's stories led to the resignation of Inspector General William M. Davis who was replaced by former Chicago police deputy director of detectives Michael McCotter.
Harris, D-Chicago, has been working with state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton and state Rep. Patricia Bellock, R-Westmont.
"I want to be sure the advocacy groups have had their concerns met," Harris said.
As soon after that as language for the law is available, Harris said, it will be proposed to the House for a first reading. If all goes well, the proposal could become law within a few weeks.
Harris and Haine said they liked the idea of the Department of Aging monitoring the disabled adults because the department already has in persons who are trained and have been working with disabled seniors.
"The concept looks good to me," Haine said. "I'm sure this will be handled on a expedited basis."
The Department of Children and Family Services investigates abuse cases of persons under 18 and the Department of Aging handles the cases for people 60 and above.
Previously, the OIG for DHS employed only five investigators and a supervisor in its program for disabled adults at home for the entire state.
"The Department on Aging has a very good track record of handling high volumes of abuse and neglect allegations involving seniors ... And there have been very few reported problems. We know that system works," Harris said.
Quinn approved of the measure.
"This is the best and most efficient way to make sure adults with disabilities are protected," said Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the governor's office. "This proposal builds on a network of providers across the state that are already trained and prepared to investigate these types of cases."
The draft also states that when necessary, investigators who still work for the DHS will be employed to train any additional Department on Aging workers who might be given the extra task of looking out for disabled adults living at home.
"I think your (BND's) investigation reported that, just having a handful of people sprinkled around Illinois, who are not very familiar with the community, is not an efficient approach," Harris said. "(Under) the Department on Aging's approach, people who are boots on the ground in each community and each neighborhood, can monitor a problem daily and hourly if needed. These are people who know exactly who in law enforcement to talk to and who in the hospitals to talk to because they do it every day."