- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - An Illinois Department of Human Services official told state legislators that group homes for adults with disabilities will face stricter licensing standards and enforcement, and that they’ll be graded on safety and quality for the first time.

Department Secretary James Dimas told Senate and House lawmakers the department has launched over a dozen reform measures to increase enforcement of 3,000 group homes across Illinois and boost public transparency involving the care of 12,000 adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/2hlUhoH ) reported.

Dimas spoke at the hearing scheduled in response to a Tribune investigation that found more than 1,000 cases of abuse and neglect of Illinois adults with disabilities who were placed into private group homes.

One of the reforms outlined by Dimas would provide limited public access to previously sealed investigative files.

“I’m committed to transparency,” said Dimas.

The department is currently working with the Illinois attorney general’s office to provide group home addresses and full enforcement histories to families and guardians.

The newspaper reported that Illinois’ Department of Human Services enforcement arm, the Office of Inspector General, had sealed thousands of investigative files, redacted group home addresses from public records and concealed the oversight process.

Human Services officials and Dimas said they hope to quickly have out a web-based public report card that evaluates group home businesses based on state investigations, including numbers of allegations and substantiated cases of abuse and neglect. The report cards would also show results of licensing and quality surveys that gauge how care is delivered.

“We’re not perfect,” Dimas said. “There is more work to be done. But Illinois’ most vulnerable adults are safer now than in years past.”

Last month, the Chicago Tribune’s investigation identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 and at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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