Two proposed laws regarding disabled adults who live at home are working their way through the House of Representatives and promise to remedy flaws outlined through stories in the Belleville News-Democrat in how these vulnerable citizens are protected.
State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who was the lead sponsor on both bills, said Tuesday he hopes the two proposals can be merged into "one final piece of legislation."
House Bill 948 would transfer responsibility for investigating reports of abuse and operating a state-wide abuse hotline for disabled adults who live at home from the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services to the state Department on Aging.
This would increase the number of state investigators able to investigate reports of abuse and deaths suspected to have resulted from abuse or neglect from five to a potential of more than 100.
House Bill 2643, titled the "Adult Fatality Review Team Act," would create panels to review details surrounding the death of a disabled adult in each of the department's 13 service areas throughout Illinois.
During 2012, the BND published a series of stories titled "Hidden suffering, hidden death," concerning the OIG/DHS that revealed that at least 53 disabled adults died since 2003 after they were the subject of reports to a state abuse hot line, yet the agency did not intervene or investigate their deaths.
The newspaper also reported that hundreds of calls for help were shunted to a "non-reportable" category and not handled by the inspector general's office.
The reporting led to the resignation in August of Inspector General William M. Davis and an executive order issued by Gov. Pat Quinn to revamp the agency.
Quinn named former Chicago Police Department's Assistant Chief of Detectives Michael McCotter as inspector general. McCotter worked with the governor's office, various state legislators and advocacy groups to come up with HB 948. Harris said an informal meeting with the "stakeholders" will be held to iron out the law's final language and settle several concerns.
HB 2643, the death review team proposal, was formulated with the help of the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
"We've been working with the sponsor of HB 948, Rep. Greg Harris, and will continue to do that in an effort to make sure that both bills fit together and create an effective system for this review process," said Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Madigan.
"This legislation fills a critical gap in state law, requiring authorities to thoroughly investigate and determine the cause of suspicious at-home deaths of elderly or disabled Illinois residents."