Measure Would Require Review of Suspicious At-Home Deaths of Elderly, Disabled Adults
Springfield–(ENEWSPF)–March 20, 2013. Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced the House Human Services Committee voted out a bill to establish vulnerable adult fatality review teams to investigate suspicious at-home deaths of elderly or disabled Illinois residents.
“This legislation fills a critical gap in state law, requiring authorities to thoroughly investigate and determine the cause of suspicious at-home deaths of elderly or disabled individuals,” Madigan said. “The results will allow the state to make further changes to prevent similar tragedies and improve services for people who receive at-home care.”
House Bill 2643, which is sponsored by Rep. Robert Martwick and was crafted in conjunction with Madigan’s office, creates the “Vulnerable Adult Fatality Review Team Act,” requiring a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to thoroughly examine deaths of adults with physical or mental disabilities and elderly persons receiving care in private residences.
“We have a solemn duty to not only protect our most vulnerable citizens, but also to hold accountable those responsible for their well-being,” Martwick said. “Our elderly residents and adults with disabilities that live at home deserve the same attention as those in care facilities, and I am glad to partner with the Attorney General to help make that a reality.”
The bill calls for review teams to assess the at-home death of a physically or mentally disabled adult or an elderly person if:
- the death is of a suspicious nature or involves blunt force trauma;
- the deceased’s attending physician requests a review;
- the case was referred by a health care provider; or
- the adult was the subject of a case from a senior protective service agency, law enforcement agency or a State’s Attorney’s office involving suspected abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.
The legislation is modeled on the Child Death Review Team Act and the Abuse Prevention Review Team Act, which require the review of deaths and sexual assaults that occur in long-term care facilities, and is designed to require the investigation of instances of suspicious deaths that fall outside the purview of those statutes. There are currently no review teams assigned to evaluate the deaths of adults aged 18 to 59 with physical or mental disabilities living in private residences.
The measure calls for at least 13 review teams, one in each of the Illinois Department on Aging’s Planning and Service Areas. The Director of the Department on Aging would appoint members to review teams assigned throughout the state. The teams would bring together professionals from different disciplines to share their expertise, including physicians with expertise in dealing with abuse and neglect of adults, State’s Attorneys, law enforcement officers, representatives of social service agencies that serve adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities, coroners, and emergency medical services professionals. Review team leaders would serve on the Executive Council, which would coordinate the teams’ efforts. The bill requires review teams to report their findings to the appropriate authorities and the Executive Council.
The Attorney General’s legislation is part of an ongoing effort to increase protections for Illinois’ most vulnerable residents. Madigan launched “Operation Guardian” in 2010 to ensure the safety of nursing home residents in Illinois. Teams of state and local agencies conduct compliance checks at nursing home facilities to review safety concerns. The initiative grew out of and expands on the Attorney General’s previous work to shut down south suburban Emerald Park Nursing Home when it was found to be housing numerous sex offenders and other felons.
Madigan has also successfully worked to protect nursing home residents by requiring background checks and a criminal history analysis for residents to identify those who might pose a threat to others in the facilities. In addition, Madigan authored the Resident’s Right to Know Act that requires nursing homes to complete an annual report detailing the facility’s standard of care, service and security issues to provide better information to residents and their families.