BELLEVILLE, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Human Services has announced it is "re-evaluating the role" of its Office of the Inspector General following a report that the agency failed to investigate the deaths of disabled residents who allegedly were victims of neglect and abuse.
A Belleville News-Democrat investigation (http://bit.ly/MW0cdk) revealed that since 2003, the inspector general did not investigate 53 cases called into the agency's hotline that told of disabled adults who were allegedly abused or neglected and later died.
The Office of the Inspector General cites an interpretation of the Adults with Disabilities Intervention Act, passed in 2000, which it says does not make it responsible for investigating the circumstances surrounding those deaths because "the dead are ineligible for services." Statewide, the office lists 53 employees and operates on a $5 million annual budget.
In a statement Friday, department spokeswoman Januari Smith Trader said the department is reviewing the inspector general office's role under current law and in coordination with law enforcement and other investigatory agencies.
"These are serious issues of concern," Smith Trader said. "The department is reviewing inspector general's office's role under current law and in coordination with law enforcement and other investigatory agencies."
Former state Rep. Lee Daniels, a Republican from Elmhurst who helped guide the passage of the state law that greatly expanded the inspector general's protection role to include disabled people who live at home, said Friday that the agency's actions were violations of state law.
Smith Trader declined to say whether the OIG's review of its operations would include an inquiry into whether state law was broken.
The News-Democrat found that in five of the 53 death cases, the inspector general's office notified local police, but none of these cases resulted in a felony criminal conviction. It isn't clear whether police were notified in the remaining 48 cases.
The newspaper also found the agency determined a large number of calls to its abuse hotline weren't accepted by hotline operators for investigation. A total of 534 calls, or 41 percent of the 1,289 calls received, were listed as non-reportable in 2011.
They were cases like Bonnie Matyasik, 51, who was suffering from end-stage cirrhosis and arrived at an emergency room Jan. 26, 2009, near Chicago with dried feces in her hair and under her fingernails. Matyasik was bruised and scraped along one entire side of her body from being dragged across a concrete floor by her mentally impaired caregiver. She died two days later.
The agency also has a low rate of substantiating allegations of abuse and neglect; it found a reason to believe abuse and neglect occurred in 124 cases of the 755 referred for investigation. Of those, 22 adults with disabilities statewide were removed on an emergency basis from an abusive or neglectful caregiver.
"It is very disturbing to say the least," said Sen. William Haine, D-Alton. "I think the OIG owes each and every member of the General Assembly a full explanation of these facts. ... I think this calls for some supplemental legislation that should involve other stakeholders like state's attorneys and coroners."The News-Democrat reports the directive regarding referrals to local law enforcement was changed June 15, shortly after inquiries were made about which cases were referred to police. Cases now must be referred to police when there is a serious injury or death associated with an allegation of abuse or neglect, or whenever abuse or neglect complaints "rise to the level of criminal conduct."