October 5, 2009
In response to the September 29 article “Nursing homes mix felons, family,” the Health Care Council of Illinois, an association representing more than 600 Illinois nursing homes, believes that more should be done to protect Illinois nursing home residents from convicted felons. We were involved in the development of legislation guiding the admission of convicted felons into nursing homes, including conducting criminal background checks on all residents and having the state do risk assessments on those individuals who were found to have felony convictions.
During the process of creating this legislation, we had three additional recommendations that were not included in the final version. We continue to believe that these recommendations are crucial to protecting the 100,000 Illinois nursing home residents we serve:
Have the Illinois Department of Corrections do the
risk assessments for persons with felony convictions, rather than the Illinois
Department of Public Health. The Department of Corrections is more familiar
with this population and is better equipped to complete these assessments and
assist facilities with developing security procedures. In addition, this
Department already has a nursing home placement division that should be completing
this type of risk assessment prior to placing enrollees in nursing homes.
2. The state should have specialized, dedicated facilities that are capable of providing both medical and mental health treatment for persons with felony convictions, including the subpopulation of those with an MI diagnosis and convicted sex offenders.
3. Residents with felony convictions who are observed to exhibit behavior that would put other residents at risk should be able to be involuntary discharged on an expedited basis rather than the current 90-day requirement. While the law requires a background check prior to admission, transfers from hospital settings often must occur prior to receiving the results. It is crucial that facilities are given the tools to protect our residents as soon as a problem arises.
Another proposal discussed
involving transfers from hospitals was not implemented:
This proposal would have prohibited anyone with an MI diagnosis from being discharged from a hospital into a nursing home until the Department of Human Services (DHS) had completed its mental health prescreen and an MI care plan developed. This would ensure that individuals with an MI diagnosis would be appropriately placed in facilities that could provide for their MI treatment needs and that the facility is fully aware of the care and security needs of the individual prior to accepting him or her as a resident.
The issues addressed in the September 29 article will not go away until the state of Illinois makes a full-fledged commitment to developing a comprehensive mental health treatment system in Illinois. Our current system is broken, ineffective and puts Illinois residents at risk, including thousands of the frail elderly both in the community and in nursing homes.
As a professional association, we are dedicated to maximizing resident safety, security and well being. By implementing our suggested recommendations, our state’s leaders will make great progress in protecting Illinois’ nursing home residents from possible dangerous situations caused by convicted felons.
Health Care Council of Illinois