On Jan. 14, 2010 the Nursing Home Safety Task Force (“Task Force”) released draft recommendations outlining plans for reforming care provided to Illinois nursing home residents. Formed in October 2009 by Gov. Pat Quinn, the Task Force was created in response to allegations of abuse in Illinois nursing homes raised by a series of articles published in the Chicago Tribune in 2009. The Task Force was charged with examining existing resident safety and admission policies and procedures, specifically focusing on issues related to admitting incarcerated and mentally ill patients to nursing homes. The Task Force was directed to recommend reforms of the current system and to consider alternatives to institutional placement.
The Task Force’s recommendations, however, are not final and may be revised or altogether removed from the final report that is expected to be issued by the end of January 2010. According to Michael Gelder, Gov. Quinn’s senior advisor for Health Policy and the Task Force’s leader, the information released in the preliminary report represents “preliminary recommendations” that will be refined during the next three weeks before Gov. Quinn receives the final report.
The preliminary report contained 27 recommendations, including:
- ending the practice of admitting mentally ill persons that come from psychiatric wards, jails and homeless shelters into nursing homes;
- initiating criminal background checks and screenings of persons entering nursing homes by reforming the state’s pre-admission screening program and sanctioning nursing homes that do not timely complete the screening process;
- directing the Illinois State Police to search nursing homes for residents with outstanding warrants;
- requiring the state to create new compliance and training standards for homes that care for persons who are mentally ill;
- providing the Department of Public Health with greater power to revoke nursing home licenses of repeat offenders;
- strengthening the government’s response to misconduct by nursing home administrators; and
- increasing minimum staffing requirements.
Even if the final report includes most or all of the recommendations issued in the preliminary report, the recommendations will likely require changes in law that would likely delay the proposals. In addition, many of the proposals require additional state funding, which may be difficult to obtain in light of the State’s current $12 billion budget deficit. Furthermore, a tax increase for this purpose during an election year is not likely to be passed into law.
According to Gelder, the reforms could be achieved by redirecting current spending without requiring any additional general revenue funds. Gov. Quinn, however, will need to work with Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton during the budget negotiation process and demonstrate that the expansion is truly budget-neutral. In the meantime, nursing homes should closely follow the progress of the Task Force. For more information on the Task Force, please contact one of the following members of McGuireWoods’ Long Term Care practice group:
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