FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Director of Abuse Investigation Unit
Equip for Equality
(312) 895-7304 (Work)
(224) 442-0011 (Cell)
President & CEO
Equip for Equality
(312) 895-7314 (Work)
(708) 288-3603 (Cell)
SCATHING REPORT BY U. S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: HOWE CENTER GUILTY OF BROAD CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Report Confirms Equip for Equality Findings--Howe Must Close
CHICAGO(November 16, 2009) In response to a complaint by Equip for Equality, the United States Department of Justice issued a report sharply criticizing the treatment of residents with disabilities at Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park, Illinois. The report was issued following a lengthy investigation. The Department of Justice report finds:
- Pervasive and longstanding constitutional and federal violations of Howe residents’ rights to be safe and free from harm and unlawful restraint, to receive adequate medical, psychological and dental care, habilitation services and transition planning and to live in the most integrated appropriate setting.
- Howe residents have suffered for many years from appallingly inadequate care and mistreatment at the hands of all levels of staff.
- The State must guarantee Howe residents a safe transition to the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, with an emphasis on smaller community homes, rather than nursing homes or other institutions.
“We applaud the Department of Justice for its comprehensive report on Howe Developmental Center,” says Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. “The report is consistent with the findings of Equip for Equality and many others, and affirms the Governor’s decision that Howe must close.”
The same kind of incidents of horrific care detailed in reports by the Department of Justice and Equip for Equality caused the federal Medicaid agency to decertify Howe in the spring of 2007. Howe’s decertification has resulted in the loss of more than 50 million dollars of matching Medicaid funds for Illinois and every month that Howe remains open, 2.2 million more is lost.
The Department of Justice investigation resulted in numerous findings documenting that Howe residents continue to be at significant risk of injury and death. Among the violations at Howe:
- Failure to successfully transition residents to more integrated settings.
- Severe under-reporting of incidents and injuries.
- Failure to maintain effective incident or risk management systems.
- Pervasive abuse and neglect.
- Substandard abuse and neglect internal investigations
- Use of physical restraint that violates Constitutional rights
- Woefully inadequate health care for residents
- Emergency response systems that put residents at risk of serious health complications or death.
- Deficient physical therapy and nutritional management
- Pharmacy services that are Constitutionally inadequate.
- No system to track or analyze medication errors
- Poor nursing staff communication
- No routine dental care for two-thirds of Howe residents
- Medical record keeping so deficient that it places residents at risk of harm
- Failure to provide adequate psychiatric care
- Deficient behavioral assessments and treatment
- Troubling methods to address self-injurious behavior and pica (ingestion of ineditable objects)
- Meaningless habilitation training.
- Grossly outdated skill development programs
- Problematic integrated treatment planning resulting in individuals being deprived of Constitutional and statutory guarantees.
A legislative hearing on Howe Developmental Center is scheduled to proceed on today from 1:00 to 4:30 at the Tinley Park Library, 7851 Timber Drive in Tinley Park. Although the intent of the hearing is to focus on the transition of Howe residents, many are seeking to use the forum to argue that Howe should remain open.
“Any further debate over whether the problems at Howe can be fixed should be over,” says Deborah Kennedy, Director of the Abuse Investigation Unit at Equip for Equality. “Instead, the State must put together independent professional teams to ensure that Howe residents transition into the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs and with the supports they need to make that transition safe and successful.”
Equip for Equality is a private, statewide, not-for-profit entity designated by the Governor to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy System for safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities in Illinois. For more information contact Deborah Kennedy at 312-895-7304 or 224-442-0011, or Zena Naiditch at 312-895-7314 or 708-288-3603.