* Gov. Pat Quinn was asked today about the disgusting scandal at the Department of Human Services. As I’ve told you before, the Belleville News Democrat discovered that the DHS Inspector General refuses to investigate suspicious deaths of people in home care because dead people no longer qualify for government services.
Quinn said he was “disturbed” and “saddened” by the reports. The governor promised to “take charge” of the situation.
“We’re visiting with the department and its folks who work there to review their work and improve upon it,” Quinn said. “Work needs to be done.”
“I think whatever is necessary to get to the truth is what ought to be done. And I think that ought to be the policy of every inspector general in every part of state government,” the governor said.
* DHS already appeared to be backing away from its indefensible stance as of late yesterday. From the Belleville News Democrat…
The Illinois Department of Human Services is “reviewing and re-evaluating the role” of its Office of the Inspector General following a Belleville News-Democrat report that the agency failed to investigate after 53 disabled adults died amid allegations of neglect and abuse.
“These are serious issues of concern. The department is currently reviewing and re-evaluating the OIG’s role, authority and practices under the program, both under current law and in coordination with law enforcement and other investigatory agencies,” Januari Smith Trader, a Department of Human Services spokeswoman, said in a statement released Friday.
The newspaper reported that, since May 2003, at least 53 adults were the subjects of statewide hotline allegations of severe neglect and abuse, were hospitalized on an emergency basis, and died, usually within a few days or weeks. But none of those deaths were investigated by the OIG, which is charged under a 2000 Illinois law with preventing the abuse of disabled adults ages 18-59 who live outside state facilities.
The reason stated for not investigating, according to OIG documents, is that once people die, they are “ineligible for services.”
During the fall legislative session, Quinn said he will press lawmakers to use those savings [from closing the facilities] to restore most – if not all – of a $50 million cut the legislature approved for the Department of Children and Family Services.
About half of the lawmakers’ cut would force the agency to reduce its staff of 2,900 by about 12 percent, or 375 workers. The remainder of the cut would eliminate contracts that provide services to children and families, the agency said. The budget trims by lawmakers came on top of a $35.3 million reduction Quinn had proposed.
The Tribune has reported that the caseloads for DCFS investigators are often double what they should be and in violation of critical terms of a 1991 federal consent decree that sets monthly limits on new cases for investigators. The agency also is failing to inspect more than half of the state’s day care facilities on an annual basis as required by law, the Tribune has reported.
Quinn called the consent decree dictating investigators’ caseloads “a landmark decision.” […]
While Quinn can choose not to spend money the General Assembly sends him, he needs lawmakers’ approval to redirect the money to DCFS.
“I really don’t know what the governor’s thinking. Illinois’ prisons are already overcrowded. This decision is just going to make things worse. By putting the worst-of-the-worst, like the men at Tamms back into the general population, he’s risking the lives of guards and other inmates.
“He’s also not taking into consideration where these prisons are located. Closing Tamms will devastate Alexander County, which already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. This is just another sign that Quinn is governing from Chicago and turning his back on Southern Illinois.
“The governor also can’t spend the money from Tamms and other prisons wherever he wants. He needs the General Assembly’s permission. I don’t think he’s going to get it.”
* The news coverage of Quinn’s announcement that he was reducing the budget by another $57 million by vetoing money for prisons and other facilities has overshadowed this line item he vetoed…
The amount of $11,300,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary, is appropriated from the Fire and Ambulance Services Revolving Loan Fund to the Illinois Finance Authority for Loans to Fire Departments, Fire Protection Districts, Township Fire Departments, or Non-Profit Ambulance Services.
This appropriation does not have revenues to support this expenditure, nor does the specified fund exist under current law.
*** UPDATE *** The governor’s budget office called back on Sunday to clarify that this was a double appropriation, and therefore the above language was superfluous.
[ *** End Of Update *** ]
* Quinn also used a reduction veto to close the Centralia Animal Disease Lab.
* More links…
* Tamms state prison for sale to federal government: In a letter dated Friday and obtained by The Associated Press, Quinn tells the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons that the 14-year-old supermax lockup would be a “valuable addition” to the U.S. correctional system.
* I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I think I’ll be taking off much or all of next week. I do know that I won’t be posting again before the 4th, unless something big breaks (probably involving the governor’s pending action on the budget). We’ll see how it goes. As I said last week, I need to get the heck outta this place for a bit.
* Brooke Thomas & the Blue Suns will be at Sunday’s music festival benefit for Family Services Center of Springfield. The event will be indoors, thankfully, so come out to Brookhills Golf Course from 2-9 Sunday. I’ll be there if I’m in town. More info here.
* Meanwhile, I promised a very close friend last night that I’d post this song, so here goes…
I asked your staff earlier this week for comment on a Sneed item…
Making an exit? U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin telling pals he might retire in two years.
So far, I’ve heard nothing back. I guess it’s time to start up the speculation machine before somebody else beats me to it. Oh, wait. Nevermind.
*** UPDATE *** OK, I finally heard back. Here’s the response…
Rich – Senator Durbin has answered this question a number of times in the last few months and his answer hasn’t changed:
Press Conference – 1.3.12:
“My political future? I am exactly halfway through my term. So I have three years before I would be standing for reelection. I have not made any decision on this. If you ask me today, I’d say I’m announcing for reelection. But, at some point I will sit down with my highest counsel of advisors in my life, which would be my wife, and we will make a decision. But I enjoy the job and hope to continue doing it for a long, long time.”
Chicago Tonight – 10.10.11:
Q: Got to talk a little politics here. So, Senator Durbin, I’ve been hearing that in 2014, you’re not going to run again.
Durbin: Well, that’s just plain wrong.
Q: Is it?
Durbin: Where have you been hearing that Carol?
Q: You know, I’ll go back to those people and tell them that.
We’re two-and-half years away from the 2014 election and have five months left in the current campaign. One election at a time.
“The Court’s ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and a tax goes against everything the President and his allies said as they were trying to pass the law, and puts an increased burden on working families. [Emphasis added.]
Your statement was e-mailed about two hours after the Supreme Court issued its opinion. There was plenty of time to check your work, dude. Try harder, please.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has approved a measure to help southern Illinois tornado victims rebuild their homes.
The Democrat signed a law Friday that creates a property tax exemption. It is equal to the difference in property values between a resident’s new home and the one destroyed by a Feb. 29 tornado in the Harrisburg area or another natural disaster.
Two main rules apply. The home must be rebuilt within two years of the destruction and the new residence must not be more than 110 percent of the previous home’s square footage.
The legislation was sponsored by two Democrats - Rep. Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg and Sen. Gary Forby of Benton.
Shockingly enough, there was no joint press conference yesterday.
* Dear Sen. Gary Forby,
While this could be more great fodder for your tough reelection bid, do you really want the General Assembly to have the right to force the state’s chief executive to spend money?…
State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said he’s prepared to resubmit a bill limiting the state’s chief executive’s ability to close facilities if Gov. Pat Quinn shutters Tamms Correctional Facility as expected on Aug. 31.
Quinn has statutory authority to close state-run facilities even if the General Assembly’s bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability recommends facilities stay open, as was the case with Tamms and Murphysboro’s Illinois Youth Center.
Forby’s bill would have given the House and Senate the power to accept or reject COGFA’s recommendation. Under Forby’s proposed legislation, Quinn would not have been able to overturn the General Assembly’s decision.
Forby said to expect the bill to reappear in November if Quinn shutters Tamms, the state’s only supermax prison.
Also, sorry about the multiple submissions.
* Dear Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady,
Do you really think that President Obama was “trained” by Speaker Madigan? From a press release you issued yesterday…
When Barack Obama ran for President, he promised no tax increases on the middle class. But the only way he could convince the Supreme Court to approve ObamaCare was to call it a new “tax.” Promise made – Promise Broken.
This comes as no surprise since Barack Obama spent his formative political years in Springfield being trained by Illinois Democrats like Mike Madigan, who through years of mismanagement, have led Illinois to having the worst budget deficit, credit rating, pension debt and business climate in the nation – and last year a 67% Tax Hike in the middle of the night on the last day of a lame duck session of the state legislature after many of his party members promised to oppose any such tax hike. Promise Made – Promise Broken.
Be careful what you wish for, dude. One day, the media may actually start including some of your goofier press release claims in its reporting.
* Dear Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.,
When you finally finish recuperating from “exhaustion,” here’s another question you should probably answer…
The timing of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s announcement on Monday that he had begun a medical leave of absence two weeks earlier has taken on new significance.
Frank Watkins, his Washington spokesman, said the news was released just before 5 p.m. Central Time on Monday. Five p.m. that day was the deadline for independent candidates to file nomination papers with the State Board of Elections for a spot on the ballot for the November election for the seat, said Rupert Borgsmiller, the board’s executive director.
Candidates typically bring their papers to the office, or have a representative do that, because they must be time-stamped by the 5 p.m. deadline, Borgsmiller said.
Watkins, in an interview, insisted there was no link between the delay in making the news public and the filing deadline. “That was not a factor at all,” he said.
An immediate disclosure of a leave of absence for “exhaustion” could’ve brought a major challenger out of the woodwork. Probably not, but whatever. I really doubt you wanted to take that chance.
* Dear Gov. Pat Quinn,
I understand your desire to deinstitutionalize the developmentally disabled. But could you please do something about easing the anxiety of the parents involved? C’mon, man. Get in the game here…
During hearings last spring, administration officials pledged that a transition plan would be individually tailored for each resident.
But Robyn Pannier, whose son lives at JDC, said no such plan has been developed for her son. She attended a meeting with Department of Human Services staff and representatives of a contractor hired by the state to develop the transition plans. Pannier said she asked questions about how her son’s medications would be administered in a community setting and about security.
“They haven’t come back to us with any answers,” she said.
“That’s why these families are here, because they kind of feel like they’re sitting out in the wind and nobody is helping them,” Watson said.
* Yesterday, we discussed the Belleville News Democrat’s story about how the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services refused to investigate suspicious deaths of people in home care because they were dead and, therefore, under his insane interpretation of state law, no longer qualified for DHS services.
As you might imagine, legislative reaction has been furious…
“It is very disturbing to say the least,” said Sen. William Haine, D-Alton. “I think the OIG owes each and every member of the General Assembly a full explanation of these facts … I think this calls for some supplemental legislation that should involve other stakeholders like state’s attorneys and coroners.”
State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, chairman of the House Human Services Committee, refuted the OIG’s interpretation of the 2000 law that gave it increased powers to investigate abuse and neglect of disabled adults who live outside of state facilities.
“It doesn’t seem to be that there’s any lacking of specificity in the law,” Harris said. “I don’t see this nonsense about, well, “We can’t provide services once they’re deceased.”
The OIG should be looking into cases of neglect and abuse of a disabled person, especially when a death follows an allegation, Harris said. The agency has a responsibility to investigate, Harris said, and to turn over cases where neglect or abuse is suspected of being involved to law enforcement.
“We need to find out how this is being allowed to happen,” Harris said. “We need to find out if it’s a failure of individuals, we need to figure out if it’s a failure of the system. Or, if it’s a failure of how a law or rule is drafted, whichever one of those it is or all three of them, we have to fix it.”
State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, said the OIG’s main purpose is to investigate abuse and neglect of the disabled.
“That someone dies is a lame reason not to follow through. They have always been tasked with this,” Kay said. “If we don’t have the ability to pursue causes of death in these cases to their logical end, then we should take it out (of the law). But it seems it was put there for good reason.”
* Meanwhile, the DHS Inspector General is expected to issue some sort of statement today. I’ll have it for you if it ever materializes. But I want to go back to a passage that was in the story we looked at yesterday…
Top state officials declined to talk about how the agency operates. OIG Director William M. Davis, a retired Illinois State Police regional commander, initially agreed to an interview, but [DHS spokeswoman Januari Smith-Trader] later said that neither Davis nor his boss, Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle R. B. Saddler, were available.
In subsequent emails, Smith-Trader accused a reporter of possibly breaking state and federal privacy laws by being in possession of private case summaries not open to the public. [Emphasis added.]
It seems to me that DHS was trying to kill a hugely unflattering story by using an empty threat of prosecution against two of this state’s best investigative reporters. Rather than rectify their incredibly stupid behavior, DHS lashed out at the people who were trying to expose this despicable policy to the public. It was a clear act of desperation on the part of DHS, and they need to be called out on it.
The governor also needs to be dragged into this mess. He needs to be pressed on it until he agrees to push DHS into compliance with the law. Some firings wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.
Schock was supposed to appear with Quinn in Springfield at an Executive Mansion kickoff luncheon for Illinois’ Special Olympics. The Quinn administration contacted event sponsors and tried to get Schock removed from the program or to shift things so the two wouldn’t appear together, said event officials who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
When the program went on as scheduled, organizers were told Quinn was running late and that Schock should appear on his own.
Brooke Anderson, a Quinn spokeswoman, said the governor’s late arrival was due to travel, not Schock. She also acknowledged the spat.
“Considering the congressman’s comments (two) days before in which he stated blatant falsehoods about the federal transportation bill … we did have concerns about the congressman politicizing the event,” Anderson said.
The second incident involved a central Illinois planning agency that had secured Schock’s attendance for a fall transportation conference in Peoria. Last Monday the organization was told by state transportation officials to disinvite Schock.
In an email to Schock, Mike Phelan, chairman of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, said the agency got a phone call from IDOT official Tom Kelso “specifically telling us to uninvite you apparently due to (His words) your appearance on a Morning Joe show last week with Gov. Quinn.”
* House GOP Leader Tom Cross had this to say yesterday after the US Supreme Court upheld Obamacare…
Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms a federal law that has the potential to pile billions of dollars of additional expenses into our state budget that we cannot afford. We are encouraging Congress to repeal Obamacare at the federal level as soon as possible, and provide Illinois the ability to administer an efficient Medicaid program.
Aides [to Gov. Pat Quinn] say under the law, 500,000 more people will qualify for Medicaid coverage, which initially will be funded complete by the federal government. Illinois will be required to pick up 10 percent of the costs by 2020, but state budget officials say it should not cost the state any additional dollars because the federal government will still be reimbursing Illinois for health care at a higher rate than before.
Illinois Medicaid spending is likely to increase by $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion over the five-year period starting in 2014, according to a report by the Washington-based Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, published in 2010. The range depends upon how many people actually join the program.
Officials estimate that another 1 million people will be able to purchase coverage through a state health insurance exchange, which has yet to be put in place.
The exchange is designed to create a competitive forum for people to buy insurance coverage, but state lawmakers have yet to pass legislation creating the online marketplace. Quinn said he will ask lawmakers to act when they return to Springfield this fall, but some health care advocates say Illinois is running out of time and Quinn should issue an executive order to set up portions of the exchange on his own.
Quinn dodged questions Thursday about using his executive powers to move forward with the exchange. But the governor did acknowledge that initially, at least, the state will partner with the federal government to run the exchange instead of operating the marketplace on its own.
* Cross blocked a bipartisan effort to create that exchange. And the going won’t be easy in the Senate, either…
Quinn said he is not worried about missing the deadlines. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the named defendant in the Supreme Court case, told Quinn and other large-state governors in a conference call Thursday they had “great flexibility” in putting the plans together and complying with new Medicaid provisions.
The Republican whom Quinn narrowly defeated for governor, state Sen. Bill Brady, said he doubts any Republicans will be supportive of creating an Illinois exchange until seeing whether Congress votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I don’t know what the Democrats are thinking, but I can’t see the Republicans supporting any exchange language that incorporates a tax and creates an expense to our budget,” said Brady (R-Bloomington), who co-chaired the health exchange panel.
Brady also cautioned Quinn that there would be a political price to be paid if he tries to enact the exchange on his own through executive order.
“I don’t think the people of Illinois support a tax on Obamacare. I think there will be repercussions for members of his party who let him do that,” he said.
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said the threat of fines could drive many of Illinois’ uninsured into Medicaid, costing the state $2.4 billion.
State Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady added, “Obamacare will lead to the implosion of our health care system, an explosion of our national debt and economic uncertainty for millions of job creators.”
“We can move forward with the insurance exchange. Basically, we can do it through legislation, which I think is a superior method. But other states have done it through executive orders through their governors,” said state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), who sponsored a Medicaid-reform package and was a member of the health exchange task force.