CHICAGO, IL – The Illinois Department of Human Services’ (IDHS) watchdog office recently revealed shocking instances of abuse, cruelty and poor care of patients who suffer from mental illnesses and developmental disabilities at a state-run facility in Southern Illinois.
Eight reports obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act showed evidence of an ongoing crisis at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center located at 1000 N. Main St., Anna, IL. The facility is under scrutiny with Governor J.B. Pritzker discussing the future of the property just last month.
“If the problems can’t be fully addressed, then we ought to close it down because the state, obviously in that area, is incapable of managing the facility properly,” Pritzker stated.
In November, an IDHS inspector general wrote that two employees broke a patient’s arm in October 17 and bragged to fellow staff how they got away with abusing patients by blaming injuries on patient falls. They also mentioned how they intimated and bullied other employees in an effort for them not to report in fear of retaliation.
In another report, the inspector pointed to years of concern regarding the care to patients who have pica, a mental health condition where a person compulsively swallows non-food items like coins, zippers or grass.
Nurses told investigators it was common practice to force patients with pica to dig through their own feces with gloved hands or a spatula to determine what objects they swallowed had passed.
A clinical consultation was conducted and the facility was cited for neglect, though individual nurses names were not cited.
In another report, the inspector cited two nurses for neglected a terminally ill patient just days before he died in July 2021. One nurse neglected to properly manage his pain, while the other failed to notify a physician that the resident had lost over 20 pounds in just one week. The failure to report caused him to experience emotional distress and pain which further deteriorated his health. The nurses deviated from the standard of care; furthermore, the report stated had proper care been provided, he would have “a higher quality of life and more time with his family.”
Choate, which houses up to 270 residents with disabilities, had employees obstructing investigations and lying to avoid consequences in abuse and neglect lawsuit cases.
Other findings in the reports include mental health technicians who neglected patients and comprised their safety by sleeping on the job or failing to provide proper supervision. In May 2019, two patients who were left unsupervised both accused the other of rape. In another instance, a resident was discovered wandering naked outside at 4 a.m. in mid-December when temperatures were below 30. In another case, a staff member failed to provide proper supervision resulting in one patient assaulting another.
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