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Earlier this week the Illinois Senate joined the House in passing legislation aimed at safeguarding the thousands children and adults with severe developmental disabilities who are in care facilities. The new laws are a step in the right direction toward preventing wrongful death caused by nursing home abuse and neglect in Chicago and statewide.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “The proposed new laws, sparked by a Tribune investigation, require nursing facilities caring for the developmentally disabled to report all deaths to state regulators as well as to local coroners or medical examiners.

Other reforms include stiffer fines for poor care, a ban on new admissions at troubled homes, stricter rules on the use of psychotropic medications and fewer roadblocks to closing facilities.”

In the past, nursing home abuse and neglect largely went unnoticed and sometimes uninvestigated. The Tribune’s recent investigation uncovered a decade-long pattern of nursing home and abuse leading to wrongful death at North Side’s Alden Village North. Over the ten year span, 13 children and young adults had died in cases that resulted in state citations for nursing home neglect or failure to investigate.

While the legislation is a positive step toward preventing nursing home neglect and abuse and subsequent wrongful death in Chicago and statewide, additional action needs to be taken to safeguard this vulnerable population. Under the new law, facilities for the disabled would be responsible for reporting deaths and disclosing any incidents that might have led to wrongful death but neither the state nor coroners will be required to investigate.

However, “Dr. Thomas Kupferer, president of the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association, said the legislation could help identify deaths that need investigating, and if neglect or wrongdoing were involved, ‘hopefully, it will be uncovered,'” according to the Tribune.

In order to be effective, the new legislation will also need support from additional state investigators, according to some advocates against nursing home abuse and neglect in Chicago and statewide. Others within the Illinois Department of Public Health feel that it is not necessarily so, as they feel the new legislation provides their department with the tools they need to make the existing inspectors more effective.

The decision to entrust the care of a loved one to a care facility is never an easy one. But for some families with loved ones with developmental disabilities, there is no other option. Hopefully this new legislation will prevent nursing home abuse and neglect and give families increased confidence in the care their loved ones are receiving and prevent wrongful death in Chicago and statewide. If you are concerned about the care a family member is receiving, or have noticed warning signs of nursing home abuse or neglect in Chicago, contact a qualified Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer right away.

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