FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an event on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021.

(The Center Square) – An Illinois lawmaker is calling for more accountability of Illinois group homes for those with developmental disabilities.  

They are called CILAs, which stands for Community Integrated Living Arrangement. State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, said a recent audit shows the Illinois Department of Human Services is failing to monitor criminal activity in group homes, and some residents are not being cared for properly.  

When the Auditor General released the audit concerning oversight of CILAs back in July 2018, the audit found weaknesses in the licensing process for CILAs and the monitoring of CILAs by DHS, resulting in 26 recommendations to DHS to improve CILA oversight. In another state audit released in July 2020, DHS had not yet fully implemented 19 of the 26 recommendations from the 2018 audit.

“Criminal activity is happening in our group homes and the state is not following up or even doing anything to help,” Meier said. “This is not right, something has to be done to better protect the developmentally disabled.”

The much-publicized patient abuses at the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in rural Anna has been a lightning rod for change. Dozens of employees over the past decade have been arrested on felony charges in connection to their work at the facility, while other employees have been cited for neglecting residents and lying to investigators.

“The question is can we prevent that in the future?” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said when asked about the report. “And if not, then obviously that’s not a facility that should remain open.”

Meier and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced House Resolution 265 that would direct the Auditor General to conduct a management audit concerning the oversight of the CILA program and the awarding of competitively-procured grants. The resolution cleared the House Human Services Committee and awaits action by the House of Representatives. 

“To this day, not all group homes are bad, however, I want them all to be the safest and best group homes on the planet,” Meier said. "Since DHS continues to fail at making the safety of our most vulnerable a priority, my office will begin to work on legislation that will force the agency to implement the changes necessary to drastically improve the safety and care for our developmentally disabled in the state of Illinois.”

According to research, Illinois spends more to operate CILAs relative to statewide personal income than nearly every state in the nation.

A request for comment from the Illinois Department of Human Services went unanswered. 

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.