FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Zena Naiditch, President and CEO
(312) 895-7314, TTY: (800) 610-2779
Deborah Kennedy, Director of Abuse Investigation Unit
(312) 895-7304, TTY: (800) 610-2779
Statewide Disability Organizations Call for Closure of Substandard Facility for People with Disabilities
Lack of appropriate care at Howe Developmental Center leads to senseless deaths and puts every resident at risk
CHICAGO (February 15, 2007) -- Citing substantial evidence of critical errors by medical, nursing and direct care staff, Equip for Equality, The Arc of Illinois, United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois, and the Institute on Disability and Human Development University of Illinois at Chicago called for the closure of the Howe Developmental Center following the deaths of 8 people and repeated instances of substandard care rendered to others who remain at the institution. In a letter directed to Governor Blagojevich detailing the findings of Equip for Equality's Abuse Investigation Unit's examination of the deaths and substandard care, the groups called upon the State to immediately stop any new admissions and take the steps necessary to close the institution.
The Abuse Investigation Unit's examination of practices at Howe documented that since September 2005 at least 8 people have died due, in part, to a substantial lack of care. That same lack of minimally adequate care was found by the Investigation Unit in a review of approximately 10% of the clinical records of the approximately 400 people who remain at Howe. Based upon those findings, the advocacy groups concluded that "Given the extent to which such substandard care is tolerated and embedded within the culture of the facility, it is clear that every individual residing at Howe is at substantial risk of serious injury or death."
The tragic consequences resulting from such substandard care is illustrated in one of the deaths at Howe. An individual was left sitting in his wheelchair in the living area of a unit for almost five hours from late afternoon, through the dinner hour and into the early evening before the staff noticed that he was unresponsive, had no pulse and was not breathing. When paramedics arrived a short time later, they found that the individual had died and rigor mortis had already set in.
The same kind of serious problems documented by Equip for Equality led the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to cite Howe for violating federal Medicaid rules. Howe's failure to correct the violations prompted IDPH to place independent monitors in the institution to protect the health and safety of the individuals there and resulted in decertification proceedings to remove Howe from participation in the federal Medicaid program.
"People with developmental disabilities in yet another state-run institution are at serious risk of injuries and death. It's time for Illinois to build a quality community based system of services and stop warehousing people in outmoded institutions," said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. Illinois ranks as one of the most heavily institutionalized states in the country for the percentage of people with developmental disabilities living in large congregate settings.
"Research of closings across the country have shown improvements in quality of life outcomes for people with developmental disabilities who move from institutions to community settings," said Tamar Heller, PhD, Professor and Director of the Institute on Disability and Human Development University of Illinois at Chicago.
"We should be investing in community based services in this day and age. Quite frankly, there's no need for any state institutions in Illinois. We are appalled by these deaths in institutions, which should never be tolerated," said Tony Paulauski, Executive Director of The Arc of Illinois.
Howe Developmental Center, an institution located in Tinley Park, houses approximately 400 people with developmental disabilities. It is one of nine state operated developmental centers in Illinois serving a total of nearly 3,000 people. The state also funds an additional 6,000 in private institutions for developmental disabilities.
In 2002, the state-operated Lincoln Developmental Center was closed for similar conditions and deaths to those found at Howe. Equip for Equality has also called on the State to close the Choate Developmental Center for longstanding egregious abuse and deaths.
Equip for Equality is a private, statewide, not-for-profit organization designated by the Governor to administer the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System for the State of Illinois and advances the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.
United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois is a statewide advocacy entity whose mission is to positively affect the quality of life for persons with cerebral palsy and others with severe disabilities and multiple service needs to minimize its effects.
The Arc of Illinois is a statewide organization advocating for all Illinoisans with developmental disabilities to achieve full participation in community life.
The Institute on Disability and Human Development University of Illinois at Chicago, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service, is dedicated to promoting the independence, productivity and inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of society.