SPRINGFIELD — A state facility for developmentally disabled Illinoisans is in danger of losing its federal funding after inspectors said employees repeatedly failed to protect the safety of some residents.
The Clyde L. Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna is working to return to compliance with federal regulations in order to avoid being decertified by the Illinois Department of Public Health — one of the final step before losing access to Medicaid funds, an agency spokeswoman said Friday.
At issue for the Southern Illinois facility are at least two developmentally disabled female residents, age 21 and 22, who have a condition known as Pica, which causes them to eat inedible objects.
Public Health inspectors said the facility hasn’t done enough to stop the two from eating items such as necklaces, metal snaps, batteries and coins. The findings were made during inspections in May and early July.
“The facility failed to… put adequate systems in place to ensure safety,” the report noted.
“The facility must ensure the rights of all clients,” inspectors noted.
The problems at Choate come as Gov. Pat Quinn is working to close developmental centers in favor of having residents live in non-institutional community settings.
The governor shuttered Jacksonville Developmental Center last year and is planning to close the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia this fall.
The Illinois Department of Human Services, which oversees developmental centers, says it is working to correct the problems at Choate, which employs 332 people.
“We are committed to bringing the facility into compliance,” agency spokeswoman Januari Smith said Friday.
Smith said all Choate employees have been retrained in how to deal with Pica behavior.
The facility also is adding 13 mental health technicians and four residential services supervisors have to assist with intensive staffing needs
In addition, employees who are monitoring residents for Pica behavior are working shorter rotations.
And, Smith said, Choate officials also are exploring the use of a separate residential unit for individuals with Pica.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents workers at the facility, said residents with Pica require one-on-one staffing.
“Due to cuts, Choate lacks adequate staff to always meet this requirement. This lack of staff was flagged by federal surveyors and has been raised by the union. The state has agreed to fill vacancies at Choate to address the problem,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said in an email Friday.
“We also think, instead of diverting attention and resources to its plan to force individuals out of their home at Murray, DHS should focus solely on providing quality care at Choate,” Lindall added.
Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said if the 168-resident facility is able to come back into compliance with federal regulations before August 15, the agency will rescind the recommendation to terminate Choate from the Medicaid program.
Choate also has enlisted an outside group to review the dispute in hopes the third party will refute the finding.
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