SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House unanimously passed a proposed state law Friday to reform the way the state meets its responsibilities to protect disabled adults living at home from abuse and neglect.
H.B. 948 will now move on to the Senate, where its main sponsor is Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton.
The bill's main sponsor in the House is Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who worked with advocates for the disabled, other legislators and a team from the office of Gov. Pat Quinn to reform care of disabled adults following a series of investigative stories in the Belleville News-Democrat.
"I am very thankful that after a year of hard work of all concerned and following the reporting of the Belleville News-Democrat we have in place a system that will prevent further tragedy (involving homebound disabled adults)," Harris said.
The BND last year reported that the current agency responsible for the protection of the disabled adults, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services, failed to investigate at least 53 deaths of the disabled between 2003 and 2011. The newspaper also reported that hundreds of calls to a statewide abuse and neglect hotline were essentially ignored.
The main provisions of the proposed law would:
* Turn over to the Department on Aging the responsibility to develop a system "to investigate the abuse and neglect," of homebound disabled adults.
* Set up an exploratory committee to find the best way to establish a more responsive statewide abuse hotline.
* Require that state police be trained to "recognize the signs of abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self neglect of adults with disabilities and older adults."
* Set up committees around the state consisting of members of "banking, disability care, health care, law, law enforcement, mental health care and clergy," to act in an advisory role and "provide professional knowledge in the handling of complex abuse cases."
The panels members would be directed that if they find that a disabled adult's death is due to "neglect or abuse," they must "... immediately report and follow up if need be, to local law enforcement and the coroner."
A written statement from Quinn's office said the bill "... will ensure that every case of suspected abuse or neglect is investigated and referred to law enforcement."
Quinn was quoted as saying: "I'm glad to see the House has acted to ensure that cases of abuse and neglect will never slip through the cracks."
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com or 618-239-2625.