For years, deaths of disabled children at Illinois nursing homes faced little scrutiny. Regulators weren't always informed, coroners weren't notified — even some family members weren't told whether neglect was involved.
But that could soon change as the Illinois Senate on Tuesday joined the state House in passing sweeping reforms to safeguard thousands of children and adults with severe developmental disabilities.
The proposed new laws, sparked by a Tribune investigation, require nursing facilities caring for the developmentally disabled to report all deaths to state regulators as well as to local coroners or medical examiners.
Other reforms include stiffer fines for poor care, a ban on new admissions at troubled homes, stricter rules on the use of psychotropic medications and fewer roadblocks to closing facilities.
State officials and some advocates described the measures as the most significant effort in a generation to help disabled people living in Illinois nursing facilities.
"This is a major victory for people with developmental disabilities and their families," said Michael Gelder, senior health policy adviser to Gov. Pat Quinn.
But some said the legislation doesn't go far enough. For instance, Wendy Meltzer, a leading advocate for nursing home residents, said the state will need more inspectors to enforce additional laws. "Otherwise, this whole exercise becomes pointless," she said.
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New Law Requires Stricter Guidelines for Nursing Homes