From today’s Chicago Tribune.


Judge sides with state against embattled group home
operator facing shutdown

By Patricia Callahan Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune

A Cook County judge Monday refused to halt a state shutdown of a troubled network of group homes for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

In its “Suffering in Secret” series, the Chicago Tribune last month exposed grave problems, including deaths and injuries linked to neglect, at group homes run by a business now known as Disability Services of Illinois.

Michael Kelly, an attorney for the business, asked Judge Kathleen Pantle for a temporary restraining order, a move that could have restored taxpayer funding for the homes and barred state workers from moving the remaining residents to different providers until Disability Services appeals the state’s decision to revoke its license. The state, Kelly argued, was causing “irreparable harm” to the business and its employees.

But Pantle rejected that argument and said that the individuals with disabilities living in those group homes “need to be protected.”

The judge said she was alarmed by the health and safety violations state workers found — including scalding water, mold and broken glass — when they inspected Disability Services homes last month.

“They’re just not doing their job to keep people safe and secure, and I have real problems with that,” Pantle said.

Kelly said that the deficiencies the state outlined were present only at a Disability Services home in Harvey that already had closed. He portrayed other problems as paperwork snafus that occurred when Disability Services CEO Reuben Goodwin Sr. closed his former business, Southwest Disabilities Services & Supports, and reopened this year under the new name.

In Illinois group homes, adults with disabilities suffer in secret

Goodwin, who attended the hearing, declined to comment to the Tribune, as did Kelly.
State inspectors last month fanned out to all eight Disability Services group homes after the Tribune questioned Human Services Secretary James Dimas and Inspector General Michael McCotter about harm at Illinois group homes, including those overseen by Goodwin. The inspectors immediately shut down the Harvey home, then last week notified Goodwin they revoked Disability Services’ license, citing an “imminent risk” to the 45 residents living in the remaining seven homes.

Though Disability Services can request an administrative hearing to appeal the license revocation before Dec. 23, a Human Services spokeswoman said last week the agency planned to move all remaining residents to new homes regardless.

At Monday’s hearing Assistant Attorney General Amy McCarthy told Pantle that the Department of Human Services had problems trying to relocate individuals from Disability Services over the weekend. McCarthy asked the judge to consider adding language to her ruling that Disability Services “needs to be cooperative” with those planned moves.

Flawed investigations fail victims of neglect in group homes

Pantle declined to do that but in denying the temporary restraining order, she said, “Now that they have my ruling, hopefully things will go smoothly.”

Disability Services, however, signaled things might not go as smoothly as the state had planned. After the hearing Sean Howard, a spokesman for the company, said in a written statement, “We are grateful for the judge’s refusal to remove our clients from the remaining seven facilities.”

Howard said Disability Services interpreted the judge’s remarks to mean that she was encouraging Human Services to allow Disability Services to work through the administrative process. “We have done a top to bottom review of our practices and procedures and are making improvements to continue to provide the excellent quality of care in which our clients are accustomed,” Howard wrote.

But Human Services spokeswoman Meredith Krantz said her department was reviewing “all legal options to ensure the health and safety” of the 19 individuals who remain in Disability Services homes. She made it clear the state is continuing to pursue moving all those residents.

“We continue to urge Mr. Goodwin to release all individuals remaining in his unlicensed facilities to our staff and the independent service coordination agencies so that we can continue their transition to safe and licensed homes,” she said in a written statement.
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