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Heads. Must. Roll.

Tuesday, Mar 29, 2011

* We talked about a nightmarish group home for developmentally disabled people last week. A refresher

A multimillion-dollar operation under state contract was supposed to be taking care of people with special needs. Instead, its employees are accused of fatally beating two residents and several incidents of abuse. […]

Forty-two-year-old Paul McCann suffered a brutal beating in January. The man called a gentle giant, who functioned at the level of a 6-year-old, was punched, kicked, and struck with a frying pan inside his group home for reportedly taking a cookie. […]

State records obtained by CBS 2, which date back to 2003, reveal 33 cases of Graywood staff abusing residents. Those cases included sexual abuse, physical battery and alleged coercion of residents to attack each other.

Even worse, in 2008, a resident named Dustin Higgins was murdered by staff. That death prompted an internal memo from the Illinois Department of Human Services Inspector General. The memo warned that Graywood residents were at risk amid an increase of serious allegations of abuse and neglect.

* Well, it turns out that the state’s Department of Human Services has known about the problems at that group home for quite a while

Conditions at the group homes run by the nonprofit Graywood Foundation were “totally unacceptable,” according to a 2009 memo an Illinois investigator wrote to his bosses and the AP obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The memo was written almost a year after murder charges were filed against two employees in the 2008 death of Dustin Higgins, another resident who lived in a Graywood group home. The homes were under intense state scrutiny, and the state eventually stopped them from admitting new residents.

But residents’ families weren’t told about the problems then – or even after state investigators substantiated 18 new allegations of staff abuse and neglect, according to an attorney representing McCann’s family and a state lawmaker working to improve the system.

You just wanna tear your hair out when you read stuff like that.

* Another problem…

While nursing home inspection reports are posted online in Illinois, there’s no similar information on group homes, an alternative to institutional care likely to be used more widely in Illinois after a preliminary settlement was reached this year a class action lawsuit over the civil rights of adults with disabilities.

Rep. Greg Harris is hoping to change that law.

* Meanwhile, here’s something else to make you beat your head against the wall

Emails flew between the Menard Correctional Center workers’ compensation coordinator and a Central Management Services claims processor, using words like “pandemic” and “flood” to describe hundreds of repetitive trauma claims filed by guards at the Chester prison.

But despite the written concerns of two state workers whose job it was to deal with the rising number of workers’ compensation claims at the state’s largest prison, an investigation only began following newspaper stories a year later.

Those stories by the Belleville News-Democrat detailed $10 million for 500 workers’ comp claims filed by Menard prison employees.


The emails also brought to light that some Menard employees on temporary total disability leave recuperating from surgery to correct a repetitive trauma injury were also getting elective surgery while off work for such things as hernia repair or lap-band surgeries to lose weight.

“Can we do anything about these people, while they are out on work comp, getting nonrelated surgeries?” Zellers asked in an email to Barry H. Wesley, an assistant attorney general who handles workers’ compensation cases.

“This would impede their recovery on the work comp claim and the taxpayers are paying for their time off for nonwork-related medical issues. … What can we do to stop this? Just ridiculous!” Zellers wrote to Wesley, whose job is to handle workers’ compensation claims that either are challenged and/or go to arbitration.


* And if that wasn’t enough

State hearing officer Kathleen A. Hagan, who recently filed her fourth worker’s compensation claim three days before the deadline, is seeking a settlement for an undisclosed injury.

But the public will not learn — either before or after the claim is settled — how Hagan was injured. The only public reference about her accident on Feb. 13, 2008, is on a state website that simply reads, “knee and leg right.”

That’s because Central Management Services, the large state agency that handles much of Illinois’ state government paperwork, has taken the position that because it is self-insured, virtually all information it receives regarding a claim made under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act can be withheld because it is “proprietary.”

* More joy

On a summer day in 2008, an Illinois Department of Corrections worker secretly watched as Calvin Landis, who had been receiving weekly total disability payments for five years for a back injury, moved furniture from his front porch, climbed a ladder and power washed his house.

Using a telephoto lens, the observer snapped photos as Landis, 45, a lieutenant on disability leave from a Du Quoin prison boot camp, performed about an hour of work at his home on Birch Road, a few miles from the camp. The photos showed Landis lifting an 8-foot step ladder by a rung with one arm, wielding the power wash spray head and scrubbing aluminum gutters by hand. […]

The photos were submitted to Landis’ supervisors at the Department of Corrections. Internal state agency e-mails obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat showed that corrections department administrators requested an investigation for possible violation of Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission rules.

But no investigation resulted, according to copies of the department e-mails. For the past two years, Landis’ checks kept arriving, according to comptroller’s office documents.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - cassandra - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 7:28 am:

    I’d like to understand more about what DHS is supposed to do–that is, if there are standardized, written procedures–when abuse is substantiated against a facility DHS is supposed to be monitoring. It sounds like they have developed an investigation process but when investigations are substantiated….what? There should be a clear set of rules for what to do post-substantiation and who does it.

    DHS is always whining about not having enough money, but I don’t think that’s an excuse here.
    The state agency is awash in mid-level and high-level administrators (PSA’s and SPSA’s) so presumably somebody could have been put in charge of post-investigative followup including formulating written procedures for same.

    Can we really trust DHS to police itself here. If these were kids, presumably we’d have the equivalent of the B.H. lawsuit filed by the ACLU against DCFS back in the 80’s. There was a monitor, judicial oversight, and so on, and DCFS had to do what the judge said, not what it wanted to do (sweep everything under the rug, natch). So where’s the ACLU on this one? Or law enforcement, for that matter. or Equip for Equality. DHS and lots of others seem remarkably uninterested. And Governor Pat.

  2. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 7:32 am:

    From the BND story on CMS contention that they can’t release information on work comp medical claims under FOIA:

    –Experts on the state’s revised Freedom of Information Act say that CMS’ interpretation of the act’s proprietary exemption is overly narrow, violates the spirit of the statute and is contradictory to specific wording in the state constitution.–

    With the audit coming and the BND continuing to knock this story out of the park, I would think CMS and the Quinn Administration would be wise to get it all out the sooner the quicker.

    You can’t get rid of the stink until you open the windows.

  3. - Easily Entertained - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 8:08 am:

    Word is DHS tackled the problem at Graywood by throwing more money at it. The consequences, it seems, of institutional mismanagement, are increased funding.

  4. - ChangeAgent007 - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 9:04 am:

    Centers for Independent Living would challenge that a group home is truly in line with the Olhmstead decision.

    We hear about abuse like this all the time which is why we are so adament that Community Reintegration/Money Follows the Person be implemented. When we are 51st in the nation in providing community based care, that’s a problem.

    The more we invest in community organizations the less administration we need at DHS. It saves taxpayers money big time. Centers for Independent Living have been doing this for over 13 years, with great success. The problem is state employees really like their jobs and the nursing home lobby is quite powerful.

  5. - Leroy - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 9:07 am:

    folks that keep wanting to learn more about processes need only look. the information about processes is there for the public to review.

  6. - anon - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 9:08 am:

    I am opposed to the death penalty, but these “care takers” are as deserving as any brutal murderer of execution. I believe that their price will be paid when they meet their maker, which will be far worse than any prison in this life.

  7. - Leatherneck318 - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 9:28 am:

    Forgive me if I sound like I’m sticking up for anybody, especially a potential Disability fraud…but when you read the story from BND, and you see the picture they have with it…The guy is spraying his house with a garden hose - not a “power washer”, as they case were. Using the term “power washer” implies an additional device attached to a water source that applies additional pressure to the water through the application of applied “power”, using either a gas engine or electric motor.
    The story also says he was using an 8-foot step ladder. 6-foot ladder, yes. 8-foot, no. Unless he, himself is roughly 6′11 tall, which I’m guessing not. And as far as him being able to do those things w/ a “claimed” back-injury? Carrying an aluminum 6-foot ladder and operating a garden hose really isn’t all that taxing. I do things like that nearly every day, and I only have one arm.
    I’m not blaming the BND for anything here - I just think it cheapens a very solid, investigative series, when they not only get the facts wrong, but then they publish a photo illustrating just how far off they were.

  8. - Leatherneck318 - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 9:48 am:

    Oh, wait - my mistake. I didn’t realize GEORGE PAWLACZYK was the writer of this story…from 2 weeks ago. If memory serves, didn’t he admit to doing like 5 years of jail time/prison, not to mention his sketchy time in ‘Nam, when he got nailed (as a ‘combat reporter’ for the 1stID paper) trying to Public knowledge here, folks. Time Magazine story, and everything, so not exactly like I’m SLANDERING the guy - leave that to him to do to other people.

  9. - Irish - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 10:08 am:

    All of the above paint a very clear picture of what the state agencies have become.

    It does not surprise me a bit that CMS has taken this position. They have become omnipotent ruler of all that is state business. They were given great powers during the Blago years and Quinn has done nothing to regulate their control.

    The reason for making them the top dog over all other agencies was to streamline state government and provide more efficiencies. The result is the complete opposite. Operations in state agencies have ground down to almost a complete stop over the control of CMS. Contracts that are supposed to provide cheaper goods through bidding for supplying many agencies are no longer being bid.

    Contracts to do work even when the money is there from outside state sources are not being let and money is being lost due to the regulations that are being put on those contracts and CMS’s inability to move them forward.

    CMS is run for profit for CMS. The rules mandate that agencies have to use CMS for almost everything now, yet CMS charges those agencies for this mandated work. A lot of the agencies budget is eaten up by the administrative costs charged by CMS. A real in depth investigation of the operations of CMS would reveal many places that money could be saved.

    Add to that the fact that the GA and Governor’s office are more concerned about the infighting and who is scoring more points in the public popularity contest than they are in what is going on in the operation of the State. The blinders are on and they are more interested in the latest sound bite than they are in running the state government. Directors and associate/deputy/assistant directors are the filters that keep the bad news from reaching the decision makers. So it is no wonder this is all going on. No one is minding the store.

  10. - Ghost - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 10:11 am:

    The work comp fraud unit is massively massivelyunderstaffed.

    Classic catch 22. People complain about spending so we cut the budget and have almost no frau investigators out therechecing on claims. Then we complain the system is broke after we cut the budget and removed the safeguards.

    The effect of cutting government regulatory spending in any area is you do not have people checking on what is happening. From Work Comp, to insurane to banking the batle crys of cut employees has a cosequence. We need to staff o the work comp fraud unit.

    as for HHS, find out wo saw these reports and did not send them to the States attorney or AG’s office and fire them.

  11. - bored with press - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 10:56 am:

    Leatherneck318’s comments should be deleted. If I ever saw an idiotic drive-by attack, that is one of them.

  12. - Leave a light on George - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 10:57 am:

    What Irish said, X2.

  13. - Joe from Joliet - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 11:12 am:

    What Leave a light on George said, X2.

    Another pathetic thing is a lot of Blago’s CMS “managers” that set up this god-awful system are now protected for 5 years as the stalwarts of that new and fabulous “ethics” section. Crrrrazy.

  14. - mokenavince - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 11:59 am:

    Workers is Fraud is rampant in the construction business. Where the employer has no chance in arbitration . This also effects the manufacturing section. No one at the State gives damn the deck is stacked against all businesses. When companys like Cat states that they will move, forget taxes, Workers Comp will drive them out and Quinn & company won’t do a thing to help them.
    Maybe just maybe the powers that be ,will take a look at this site and realise just how P.O.ed people are getting. If Quinn figures a labor agreement will keep them here , he’s not as bright as I thought. MS. Madagian should also wake-up to the rampant fraud.

  15. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 12:14 pm:

    Oversight, Oversight, Oversight. There are those that howl like mad that it is ” government intrusion ” untill something goes wrong. This incident in the Community based Developmental home is a prime example. In the push to shutter the large state facilities we have neglected to set up the proper safeguards for those living in the ” community “. Just because a ” not for profit ” is setup to run a nursing home or developmental home doesn’t mean that someone is not making a ton of money. Usually the one at the very top is profiting handsomely while the ” frontline ” employees earn next to nothing. Illinois needs transperancy into every area that these so called ” providers ” operate in and that includes the financial books !

  16. - Fed up - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 12:40 pm:

    I bet Lisa Madigan is lining up another senior citizen photo op right now as her office continues to ignore rampant workers comp fraud by state employees that is costing state taxpayers millions of dollars.

  17. - Anon3 - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 12:42 pm:

    While the quality of CMS’s work comp. division is very low I don’t believe the AG should get a pass. Her attorneys work is inconsistent at best. I am sure the large agencies would have lots of examples of work comp cases gone haywire under the direction of CMS and the AG.

  18. - Bee - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 1:34 pm:

    Word on the street is that Careen Gordon has been hired as an attorney for the IDFPR. She seems to have no problems getting hired by the State!

  19. - Logic not emotion - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 2:22 pm:

    I know work comp fraud is a major problem in Illinois. Frankly, I don’t understand why something isn’t done about it. Surely the savings would be enough to offset the cost of investigation / prosecution? Surely, the politics would favor enforcement? I wouldn’t think that the unions would be backing the bad guys that strongly. I honestly just don’t understand why nothing to little seems to be done about it. It seems like a low hanging fruit that one could address to start improving the Illinois business climate and establishing a rep as being against fraud, corruption and waste.

  20. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 2:24 pm:

    That agencies which provide group home residential services to the developmentally disabled in this state are poorly supervised is well known in the industry. It is a difficult job to do - many group homes are far flung - harder to moniter than nursing homes due to be so widely dispersed. We all know that policing nursing homes is tough enough. Add to it the large number of physical sites and the distances between them makes proper supervision very difficult. More transparency is obviously needed here - DHS must open the books on the inspections whether routine or as a result of complaints. The light of day will serve as an important motivator. On the down side, cuts in budgets preclude the kind of sweeping reform needed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens. I think it won’t cost much to open the books, tho. Let’s start with that.

  21. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 2:48 pm:

    The Graywood incidents cause me to raise a couple of things regarding community services.

    One, obviously deinstitutionalization per se is no guarantee of better services, nor is non-profit status.

    Two, years ago DMHDD had an statewide regional and sub-regional infrastructure that allowed them to actually know what was going on in their programs funded in the community. That infrastructure fell to budget cuts over the years.

  22. - jerry 101 - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 2:49 pm:

    Lets see…

    Privatization of Government Services + a powerful lobby group + an underfunded regulator = Greywood Foundation.

    This is what happens when you privatize government services. Private companies are motivated by profit, not by serving the public good.

    Graywood may be a not for profit, but it paid Management Fees of $617,000 to Graywood Enterprises in their fiscal year ended June 30, 2009 and Fees-for-Services of $3,082,000 to Graywood Enterprises, which is owned by Augustine Oruwari, the President of Graywood Foundation. (Source: See Page 16 of ).

    If you look through their back 990’s, management fees and fees for service are about $3.5 million each year (combined).

    This is privatization at work. Is it saving the taxpayer money? Revenues for CILA clients in 2009 were $3.2 million. Expenses were $2.4 million. I don’t really see where privatization is saving taxpayers money, but the corners being cut are certainly enriching Mr. Oruwari, and resulting in the abuse and death of disabled persons. And all because it was supposed to “save” taxpayers money. Still not sure where that savings is coming from if Mr. Oruwari is making nearly $10,000 on each CILA client (77 clients - Revenue per client is about $41.5k, Expenses are about $31.6k).

    Privatization rawks.

  23. - jerry 101 - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 2:57 pm:

    And this is not to tarnish all agencies involved in providing services to the disabled or others. There are plenty of great organizations out there that do a great job supporting people with disabilities. But organizations like Graywood, who turn government service into profit, are dangerous to the public good. This is true if its a group home for the disabled, and this is true of any number of other cases of government services being privatized. Prisons are another prominent example, but abusing people is just an extreme case. Whenever profits are involved, corners are going to be cut, and shortcuts taken to enhance the bottom line. Charter schools are often set up like Graywood - the school itself is a not-for-profit, under the IRS definition, but they contract with for profit companies to actually run the schools. The for profit management company staff the schools, are responsible for maintenance, for buying educational materials, for buying food, all sorts of stuff. The not-for-profit passes through all the taxpayer money it gets to the for-profit management company, and the for-profit management company makes a profit on whatever corners it can cut.

    These kinds of arrangements destroy the reputation and standing of real non-profit social service agencies by association. Some privatization is fine, even when there is a profit motive (I’d say private construction companies building buildings is generally fine and dandy, provided the government is watching the construction company closely for unnecessary cost overruns). But, a lot of privatization is bad for taxpayers and bad for the people “served”.

  24. - Earnest - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 2:57 pm:

    I could be wrong, but my perception is that most developmental disability service providers are nonprofit agencies strongly rooted in their local communities with people from those communities serving on the Board of Directors. Our local agency had a 9% profit on paper last year. It was frustrating because that was all receivables from the State of Illinois and that money could have been spent on services.

    I agree that the quality control system of the state is fragmented and ineffective at addressing serious systemic issues at agencies.

  25. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 3:30 pm:

    –That agencies which provide group home residential services to the developmentally disabled in this state are poorly supervised is well known in the industry. It is a difficult job to do - many group homes are far flung - harder to moniter than nursing homes due to be so widely dispersed.–

    DD, I’m not sure that’s the issue in this case.

    Graywood is located just off the EIU campus, a couple of blocks from the football stadium.

    30 some reports — that’s just documented reports — of physical abuse since 2001. A murder in 2008. Blistering DHS reports of “totally unacceptable” conditions in 2009. Yet big state money kept flowing and there was another murder.

    Any chance that the Coles County SA, Illinois Attorney General, DHS, and those defenseless peoples GA reps. could have put their heads together prior to the second murder to shut that state-funded snakepit down? I hear there are conference rooms in the Capitol, and cell phones have conference call capabilities, too.

    Augustin Oruwari, the owner of the “non-profit,” banked $600,000 in management fees in 2009 for Graywood.

    He’s a big hitter in Charleston and at EIU, and wrote a lot of $500 and $1,000 checks over the years to Sen. Richter and Rep. Rose, so they must have about known him and his business.

    According to his EIU bio, Oruwari “was chosen the 2006 Illinois Businessman of the Year by the National Republican Congressional Committee Business Advisory Council.” So, you can see, he and his business were well-known commodities in political circles.

    Why is Rep. Harris forced to take the lead on this? Where are the locals whose constituents suffered this lucrative, state-funded abuse for years? According to WCIA:

    –WCIA got in touch with representative Chapin Rose because Graywood is in his district. He hadn’t heard about the idea for a new law, but says he does support some kind of change.–

    Way to step up.

  26. - lincolnlover - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 4:32 pm:

    Part of the lack of supervision may be the lack of state personnel to provide such supervision. Just had our ADA lift inspected. The state inspector told me there is one inspector for the north, one for the south and one for Chicago. Hope he is wrong!

  27. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 5:44 pm:

    word, i don’t think this has a political side. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing the fellow would be a contributor wherever his facility was located. I know Righter and Rose well. Neither of them would do anything to try to protect a wrongdoer. i can’t offer a guess on why DHS wasn’t all over this, but I would be totally shocked if political clout had anything to do with it.

  28. - Ain't No Justice - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 5:51 pm:

    Wordslinger….there are others that are like Greywood and again the top brass “meets” to discuss and as usual…NO ACTION. By the way, I heard the Director of DD is leaving in April. Hmmm? What is up with that? Quinn had better not fill it with one of his hacks, there are enough Blago hacks at the helm there. How do they sleep at night? It makes me sick, those poor families!

  29. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 5:55 pm:

    – i can’t offer a guess on why DHS wasn’t all over this, but I would be totally shocked if political clout had anything to do with it.–

    I’m not suggesting there was clout to let this guy operate.

    I pointed out the contributions and the owner’s prominent community status, along with the longstanding prior problems, to demonstrate that everyone with an interest, including the GA members, had to know him and what was going on there.

    From the outside looking in, it certainly seems there was at least indifference on a number of responsible parties, and not just DHS. But ignorance of the situation is not possible.

  30. - Ain't No Justice - Tuesday, Mar 29, 11 @ 5:56 pm:

    Steven…one word….incompetence.

  31. - Opine 1 - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 6:14 am:

    ” straving the government beast ” and privatizeing all sure sounds goods but as so often happens we just wind up ” shuffling the chairs “. No one should profiteer of off the misfortune of others no matter the situation. Don’t care if ” fine upstanding citizens” are on these boards we need transparency and oversight !

  32. - Leatherneck318 - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 7:32 pm:

    Apparently, ‘bored with press’ is also ‘not interested in facts’.
    My comments to this thread earlier were neither idiotic, nor a ‘drive-by’ attack. I first pointed out the egregious errors made in the BND story, and then made reference to it’s writer. None of my comments were either heinous or false; rather, they are publicy admitted fact by the man himself. And, as I stated earlier, I make no attempt to slander the writer. However, the same could not be said for him.
    He connects a bunch of barely-recognizable dots as well as Monet himself, eschewing any attempt at fact-checking, and paints a picture of this person as a fraudulent, lazy, scam-artist - because he was photographed using a light-duty ladder and a garden hose?
    While I’m sure the intentions of the media are noble, as they fight for the cause of throwing light onto the entire fraud/waste discussion, I sincerely hope that those who are doing the digging are a sharper shovel than Mr. Pawalyczk.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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