Governor J.B. Pritzker is threatening to close a southern Illinois mental health facility for intellectual and developmental disabilities because of ongoing problems with alleged abuse of patients.
Pritzker threatened to close Choate Developmental Center in Anna last September after reported abuse of patients at the facility were revealed by a ProPublica investigative report.
Pritzker was asked yesterday if he was going to take action against the beleaguered facility. He stopped short of saying he was going to ask for its immediate shutdown: “Well, I’ve told you before that if the problems can’t be fully addressed, then we’ll have to close it down because the state obviously in that area is incapable of managing the facility properly if we can’t take care of the problems. Look, there’s no doubt there are continuing issues at Choate and if those continue, as I say, we can’t keep it open. One of the big challenges with some of these facilities, I want to point out, is they’re located in areas where it’s very hard to find personnel. Think about what’s going on in Illinois and across the nation right now, which is we have many, many more job openings than we have people who are available to do those jobs. Then, think about whether you need people who are trained for a job and in a developmental disabilities facility, you sure do need training. So these are the challenges that we’re currently going through and thinking about going forward how do you address that, especially in a rural location, where it’s already hard to find people for every other job. So, we’ll continue to work on this because it is vital that we have the proper care for our developmentally disabled.”
According to ProPublica, the facility located 120 miles southeast of St. Louis, was cited by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division for failing to protect residents from physical and psychological abuse and other harm. According to the ProPublica report, since 2011, the Illinois State Police opened at least 40 criminal investigations into alleged employee misconduct at Choate. The Office of the Inspector General has also called for stiffer penalties due to the ongoing abuse problems at the facility.
Choate houses the state’s only forensic unit for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been accused of a crime and found either unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity. The 229-acre facility has been open to patients since 1873 and currently has a census of 234. According to the Department of Human Services, Choate has an annual operation budget of just under $49.8 million.