Environment & Health

Chicago Trib nursing home exposé

Thanks to our friends at Pro Publica for highlighting a great investigation by The ChicagoTribune into the Illinois practice of nursing homes mixing their populations of mentally ill felons with the elderly, which found:

More than any other state, Illinois relies heavily on nursing homes to house mentally ill patients, including those who have committed crimes. But a Tribune investigation found that government, law enforcement and the industry have failed to adequately manage the resulting influx of younger residents who shuttle into nursing facilities from jail cells, shelters and psychiatric wards.

And:

Mentally ill patients now constitute more than 15 percent of the state's total nursing home population of 92,225, government records show, and the number of residents convicted of serious felonies has increased to 3,000. Among them are 82 convicted murderers, 179 sex offenders and 185 armed robbers.

Yet the state's background checks on new residents are riddled with errors and omissions that understate their criminal records, the Tribune found, and homes with the most felons are among those with the lowest nursing staff levels.

This has resulted in the old and vulnerable sharing rooms with the mentally unstable. In 77-year-old Ivory Jackson's case, that meant being hit on the head with a clock radio by his roommate while he was sleeping. Jackson died three weeks later of brain injuries. The roommate, Solomon Owasanoye, suffered from delirium after a brain aneurysm and had a history of negative, aggressive behavior.

There have been 511 cases of assault or battery, 27 cases of criminal sexual assault and 24 narcotics violations in city nursing homes since March 2008, the Trib reports.

This latest investigation follows up on their 1998 series, “Warehousing the Mentally Ill in Nursing Homes,” which concluded that nursing homes were ill-prepared for what happened when the mentally unstable were lumped together with the traditional geriatric population. (See here, here and here for the three parts.) More than a decade later, very little has been done and the problem only seems to have grown worse.

About the reporter

Jayati Vora

Jayati Vora

Jayati Vora is managing editor at The Investigative Fund. Previously, she was features editor for Al Jazeera America, and during her time there led numerous longform and investigative projects.

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