This past week, our lawmakers in Springfield at last took steps to stem the tide of violence and injury in Illinois’ nursing homes. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys applaud the legislature for enacting this important law. Over the past year, this epidemic of injury and death has been brought to light by an investigative series by the Chicago Tribune. The problem arose when dangerous patients – including elderly patients with violent criminal records, as well as younger patients with psychiatric problems – were housed in nursing homes alongside ordinary elderly. The result was rapes, assaults, and murders among a population of Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens. The new bill, which is now awaiting signature by the Governor, looks to correct this problem by segregating this dangerous population and imposing a series of new security and safety requirements.
The first and most important provision of the new bill is its requirement that incoming patients undergo more extensive criminal background checks, as well as psychological screenings. Dangerous patients will then be placed into separate, secure therapeutic wards. These wards will not only be closed and secured, but will provide more intensive monitoring and treatment. This segregation should not pose a significant logistical problem, as the group of dangerous patients actually represents a relatively small percentage of the nursing home population.
Other common-sense measures found in the bill cover the standards a nursing home must meet if it does admit such patients, who may pose a risk to others or who have serious psychological illness. These include increased staffing levels and increased standards for security as well as treatment. The bill also aims to divert a large number of younger individuals with mental disabilities away from nursing homes and into residential programs instead. These programs will provide greater supervision for those whose disabilities make it necessary, but allow those with lesser disabilities to have greater self-sufficiency and independence.
Our wrongful death attorneys devoutly hope that these measures are successful in creating a safe environment for our elderly and disabled. The violence in our nursing homes, leading to wrongful death and personal injury, is doubly sad because the victims were already vulnerable, and their injuries are often preventable through proper care. If someone you love has been injured or killed in nursing home violence, and that injury could have been prevented but for the negligent care your loved one received, you and she may have an action against the facility. An experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether to take legal action against the nursing home.
Although the new measures represent a significant step forward, the legislature has yet to determine how Illinois will pay for the changes required by the bill. The state faces a massive budget shortfall and a looming financial crisis, even without the new fiscal requirements of the bill. We urge the legislature to see their efforts through, and find the funding needed to ensure the safety of the elderly and disabled in our state.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.