Historic Legal Settlement Reached In Illinois

A new legal settlement in Illinois calls for removing some 4,500 people with psychiatric histories from nursing homes, and placing them back into the community.

The Chicago Tribune covered the story with an article, New hope for Illinois’ mentally ill nursing home residents.

Thousands of psychiatric patients are likely to move out of nursing homes and into community-based settings in the next five years under a landmark legal agreement designed to reshape Illinois’ troubled long-term care system.

The agreement, expected to be filed Monday in federal court in Chicago, lays out a schedule for state officials to offer approximately 4,500 mentally ill nursing home residents the choice to move out of two dozen large facilities known as “institutions for mental diseases,” or IMDs, and into smaller settings that experts say are more appropriate and less expensive.

This outcome is the result of a law suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illnois.

More than any other state, Illinois relies on nursing facilities to house younger adults with mental illness, including thousands with felony records. A recent Tribune investigation detailed numerous reports of sexual assault, violence and drug abuse in some facilities where psychiatric patients got little treatment or supervision. Some of the homes failed to create adequate programs or discharge plans for residents who milled about or watched TV in dreary common areas.

The ACLU used the 1999 Olmstead Act, calling for the least restrictive environment of care, in filing their suit. This suit only deals with people in IMDs. It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 people labeled mentally ill in nursing homes that are not classified IMDs, and so much work still remains to be done. It is estimated that the settlement could save the state as much as $50,000,000 over the next few years. Many advocates have voiced their support for the agreement.

This settlement comes at the heels of other recent rulings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City releasing people labeled mentally ill from hospitals and adult homes in those states. We can only hope that this trend of decisions favoring liberation for people with psychiatric labels from unfavorable housing and treatment situations continues to gain strength and grow.