Another 23 residents are expected to be moved out of the Jacksonville Developmental Center by Wednesday, including two who will be transferred to a community-based home where employees previously were found negligent by the inspector general for the Department of Human Resources.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is questioning the move. Moving more residents where another former JDC resident broke her leg after employees misused a lift is a mistake, AFSCME said.
The department said AFSCME is attempting to discredit all community-based settings because of an isolated incident, DHS spokeswoman Januari Smith said.
AFSCME has opposed the shuttering of JDC because of loss of members’ jobs and because it says JDC residents are best served at state institutions. Many families of residents agree, already having tried placing their loved ones in community-based settings.
But the national trend is to place developmentally disabled people in community settings where Gov. Pat Quinn and some advocates believe they will be better served and closer to their families. DHS plans to move out 20 residents per month until JDC closes on Oct. 31.
Neglect or accident?
In June, just days after she was moved from JDC, a resident at the Royal Living Center in New Baden broke her femur.
An inspector general’s report found Royal Living staff members were negligent. DHS Secretary Michelle Saddler sent representatives of the Bureau of Accreditation and Licensure Certification to review the facility on Friday, Smith said.
“The secretary has also directed the director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities to inspect the facility to review all disciplinary and corrective action taken in this incident and, in addition, to ensure that staff are retrained in the proper use of lifts,” Smith said.
The resident who had the accident asked to be placed at Royal Living and still wants to live there, Smith said. New Baden is east of Belleville.
Jessica Dow, Royal Living’s residential director, said the facility reported the accident itself and was not cited by DHS for negligence.
“We followed everything to a T regarding that,” Dow said. “It is over. There were no administrative findings, no recommendations against our agency.
“There’s a lot of people coming in to make sure the people transitioning of JDC are happy,” she added, saying that Royal Living employees want residents to be “safe and happy and have full and meaningful lives.”
No family oversight
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said union members who work at JDC say the state is moving residents out too hastily.
“Those concerns were ignored and within two days the woman was injured in exactly the manner that our members feared. Now we have learned that individuals are being sent to the care of the same provider,” Lindall said. “If there has been a finding of neglect against this provider, no individuals should be sent to their care.”
Smith said “similar, unfortunate accidents” have occurred at state-operated developmental centers staffed by AFSCME members.
“It’s unfair for AFSCME to say these incidents occurred just at community-based settings,” Smith said.
She was not sure if the two residents set to be moved to Royal Living will still go there, saying that it depends on what the department’s review discovers.
AFSCME believes that nearly all of the residents who have been moved so far have been state wards, meaning they have no family to coordinate their care and that the Office of State Guardian oversees it. AFSCME criticized the process by which they have been moved, saying that residents were moved without first visiting the community-based home.
Lindall said the department is “trying to cover it up on paper by claiming the individuals are on ‘visits to discharge.’ In this case, the individuals have been moved for all intents and purposes. Their belongings have been taken out of their home at Jacksonville. That’s not proper,” he said.
He pointed to a July 21 memo by JDC official Marsha Long discussing a mandate from DHS’ director of developmental disabilities, Kevin Casey, that 23 people needed to be discharged by Aug. 1.
“We are finalizing some groupings and talking with guardians, but wanted to notify all concerned that this is high priority and all other activities should be put on the back burner in order to get the task accomplished,” Long wrote. “Please get transition plans started and clinical transition plans ready.”
The letter shows that the moves are “not at the discretion of individuals or families, not based on need, but to fulfill an arbitrary quota and without even basic questions answered or agreements in place. As this document shows in cases that they do not have finalized agreements with providers,” Lindall said. “They should be the ones driving the process, the guardians and the individuals to the extent possible and the professional staff at Jacksonville who know these individuals and know their needs.”
Smith said the department is following the process it outlined when JDC’s closure was announced.
“The goal has always been to transition about 20 residents per month from JDC,” Smith said. “JDC residents have gone through a thorough planning process, including assessment, consultations with families and guardians and planning sessions with providers to determine needs and ensure safe transitions.
“The process also requires individuals to visit their potential community setting. In some cases, individuals choose to stay for a period of time to get a feel for their new environment.”
Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.