Illinois Nursing Home Safety Task Force Final Report: A Call for Reform

March 9, 2010

In mid-January of this year, the Illinois Nursing Home Safety Task Force released draft recommendations for reforming care and improving patient safety in Illinois nursing homes. The recommendations are in response to concerns raised by investigators about the state’s increasing use of nursing homes to house residents and younger psychiatric patients, many of whom have criminal records (see our previous client alert discussing the task force’s draft recommendations). On Feb. 19, 2010, the task force presented its 52-page report to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Formed in October 2009 by Gov. Quinn, the task force was directed to investigate allegations of abuse in Illinois nursing homes, raised by a series of Chicago Tribune articles. The task force was charged with examining existing resident safety and admission policies and procedures, with a specific focus on policies concerning non-geriatric residents and convicted felons in nursing homes. The task force was directed to recommend reforms of the current system and consider alternatives to institutional placement.

Key Reform Areas

  1. Enhancing nursing home pre-admission screening and background checking processes.
  2. Setting new and enforcing higher standards of care.
  3. Significantly expanding home and community-based residential housing and service options appropriate for mentally ill and developmentally delayed individuals.

The final report also calls for an increase in nursing home licensing fees to offset costs associated with new efforts to survey nursing homes and enforce mandated safety requirements. It also calls for strengthening the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) power to revoke licenses of nursing homes that violate state regulations; increasing penalties for violations of certain regulations; and adding 79 new nursing home surveyors to address issues related to mentally ill and developmentally disabled residents.

Several of the task force’s recommendations may be implemented by state agency rulemaking, while other unfunded proposals will require legislative approval and additional state funding. According to Michael Gelder, task force chair and Gov. Quinn’s senior health care policy advisor, “Even in this economic downturn, current spending for institutional long-term care, if redirected, can fund many of these recommendations.”

If the final report’s recommendations are adopted, Illinois nursing homes should expect to face additional regulations and specialized surveys from IDPH. It is important for nursing home operators to understand how the final report’s recommendations may impact daily operations. In a recent news report, Gelder told the Chicago Tribune that many of the proposals would be implemented immediately, and a March 31, 2010, deadline has been set for implementing many other reforms included in the final report.

Please contact the authors in our long-term care practice group for more information about what steps to take to comply with the final report’s recommendations.