Sen. Laura Fine

SPRINGFIELD – An initiative from State Senator Laura Fine to ensure reports of abuse or neglect in state-operated developmental centers are thoroughly investigated and addressed was recently signed into law. The legislation intends to address allegations of abuse at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna, Illinois, where some staff members have been accused and charged with multiple accounts of abuse to patients.

“Residents and loved ones in state-run mental and behavioral health facilities are trusting their providers to not only provide high-quality treatment but to also offer them dignity and respect. We cannot allow violations of these basic human rights to occur without systemic change or justice for the victims,” said Fine (D-Glenview). “This initiative ensures employees who take advantage of people in the state’s care will face consequences for their actions, as well as employees who do not report this behavior from their colleagues, further protecting our most vulnerable from abuse and neglect.”

Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center serves patients living with mental and behavioral health concerns and/or developmental disabilities. Some former employees of Choate have been charged with and found guilty of physically or emotionally abusing patients, as well as obstructing official probes and lying to investigators about wrongdoing.

Senate Bill 855 creates repercussions for employees who do not report incidents of abuse under the Code of Silence. People who do not report cases of abuse or who actively obstruct investigative reports will be added to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Health Care Worker Registry, letting future employers know their role in silencing survivors of abuse at their job. These additions will hold bad actors accountable and discourage employees from obstructing investigations.

“The new law is a key step to break up the codes of silence that the IG has encountered throughout the state - at state operated facilities and non-profit group homes for example - that at the end of the day, put our vulnerable Illinoisans with developmental disabilities at risk and harbor traumatic workplaces for some of our most dedicated front line workers - our Direct Support Professionals and Mental Health Techs,” said State Representative Lindsay LaPointe (D-Chicago), the bill’s sponsor in the House.

Senate Bill 855 was signed into law on June 9 and is effective immediately.