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Another gigantic state government failure

Wednesday, Oct 31, 2018

* Pantagraph

In a permanent injunction issued Tuesday, a federal judge found that Illinois prison inmates face an ongoing, serious risk of harm because of inadequate mental health care.

Judge Michael Mihm gave the Department of Corrections 14 days to submit a plan to address what he called “systemic and gross deficiencies in staffing” that denies more than 12,000 mentally ill inmates adequate treatment and care. The ruling was handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria. […]

“A civilized society cares for the helpless. The IDOC has shirked this responsibility year after year. They should be ashamed,” [Harold Hirshman, one of the attorneys for inmates] added. […]

On the issue of segregation, Mihm noted that over 80 percent of the 1,105 inmates held in their cells 22 to 23 hours a day are mentally ill. In his testimony, [Pablo Stewart,a court-appointed monitor] called the inmates in segregation “some of the sickest individuals psychiatrically that I’ve seen in my career, and I’ve worked with seriously mentally ill (people). And these people are just suffering immensely.”

The order is here.

Once the state responds, the inmates’ attorneys will have a chance to respond and then the judge could turn the whole thing over to a special receiver who would oversee the prison system’s mental health reforms.

…Adding… IDOC…

We are disappointed by the court’s findings but remain committed to continuing to improve the quality of care for offenders on the mental health caseload. It’s important to point out that the court noted IDOC’s serious efforts to improve the care for offenders with mental illness and outlined several accomplishments, including:

    · The Department has implemented policies and procedures to improve mental health services.

    · The Department has invested more than $45 million to build new facilities and rehabilitate existing facilities to provide mental health services to offenders.

    · Plans are in place to construct a $150 million mental health and general medicine hospital for seriously mentally ill offenders.

In addition to these considerable improvements, other steps have been made to improve outcomes:

    · The Department has reduced segregation time by 47.5% since 2015 and has drastically increased out of cell time for offenders who are housed in segregation.

    · The Department has invested thousands of hours providing critical training for staff, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to safely defuse situations and meet the unique needs of the mentally ill population.

    · The Department created the position of Correctional Treatment Officer, which requires a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, psychology, or social work. In the past year, the Department has hired dozens of Correctional Treatment Officers for Joliet and Elgin Treatment Centers.

    · The Department has implemented additional programming for offenders who are on the mental health caseload.

The Department acknowledges its need for additional mental health professionals, and has been laser focused on recruiting new staff. We have dramatically increased our presence at hiring events throughout the state. In addition, we are expanding our partnerships with Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois.

…Adding… Keep in mind here that this lawsuit was filed eleven years ago. It’s been a problem for a very long time.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

36 Comments
  1. - Huh? - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:11 pm:

    1.4% just can’t get a break in the last week of the election.


  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:21 pm:

    –they were, of course, the finest of citizens and in great mental and physical shape before they were locked up.–

    Do you have a point there?


  3. - Gus - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:22 pm:

    And yet another court order that likely will result in a shift of funds away from higher ed and make college more unaffordable and unattainable for the middle class.


  4. - Barrington - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:28 pm:

    This is a tough area that is often underfunded and understaffed.


  5. - The Dude - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:29 pm:

    Talk to any state worker and you will realize how Rauner has limited employment and ran resources so thin that nobody can keep up with the workload.


  6. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:30 pm:

    ===Do you have a point there? ===

    He didn’t, which is why he was deleted.


  7. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:32 pm:

    ===The Department acknowledges its need for additional mental health professionals, and has been laser focused on recruiting new staff.===

    Gee, I wonder who put this sentence together. The verbiage sounds so familiar…


  8. - Huckleberry Mentat - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:51 pm:

    If only higher ed had not been a target of squeeze the beast and had the resources to train the mental health professionals needed…


  9. - The Dude Abides - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:58 pm:

    @Dude, I believe what you are saying. I talked to a guy over the weekend who pretty much told me the same thing. Morale is bad among workers who are understaffed and they are just unable to provide the assistance to all those that need it.


  10. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:00 pm:

    ===a federal judge found that Illinois prison inmates face an ongoing, serious risk of harm because of inadequate mental health care.===

    ===IDOC…
    We are disappointed by the court’s findings===

    This is a perfect example of why the state continues failing its neediest citizens. An agency that took its responsibilities seriously would welcome knowledge of where they are failing and be “laser focused” on solutions instead of ‘yes, but…’ face-saving.


  11. - theq - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:06 pm:

    if only there were more mental health residential facilities….. oh wait there were failed governor before this failed governor cut them


  12. - Who Else - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:14 pm:

    Why not reopen the old Jacksonville developmental center. Buildings are already there and it could be done with minimal investment.


  13. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:21 pm:

    Mentally ill does not mean not dangerous. Some can be helped enough to return to society. Some cannot, at least with what we know today.

    IDOC has almost no matching federal funding. Their budget is pure state funding. How much do they need to run a fully staffed department? They were about $2 billion a year. Would another $500 million do it?

    My fear is that JB will find IDOC and other agencies have been hollowed out in attempts to cut spending.


  14. - Bobby Hicks - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:24 pm:

    I can tell you that IDOC is not shirking it’s duties to comply with the new mental health standards. They are trying diligently to fill spots at Joliet and Elgin. You have to have applicants first. The courts can order, but it’s easier to order than to get it done. I’m with IDOC on this one. IDOC has job fairs each month in different parts of the state. It’s not easy to ask folks to go work with people that, let’s say, aren’t that easy to work with. These people are high security risk, red I.D. individuals that don’t much care about anything. Put in an application.


  15. - Duke of Normandy - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:27 pm:

    It should never have fallen on the prison system to provide mental health. As a DOC employee, I’ve seen that mental health professionals either won’t, or quickly quit working for a prison.


  16. - benniefly2 - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:28 pm:

    This is an old problem. I can’t think of an Illinois Governor in my lifetime that has done anything constructive to try and fix it. It has been exacerbated by the closing of a lot the state mental institutions in the last few decades. Even before many of the places were closed, however, many of them were overcrowded and underfunded. Care for those with mental illnesses has pretty much always been poor. I really wish that someone could find a way to make people give a darn about this, because there are an awful lot of sick people out there that do need serious help. Without that help, they can become a danger to themselves and others, frequently ending up in prison where it costs more to warehouse them than it would have to treat them in the first place.


  17. - theq - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:33 pm:

    “Why not reopen the old Jacksonville developmental center. Buildings are already there and it could be done with minimal investment. “….. it would take a good investment to get it up and running again. The buildings have been vandalized and left to rot. There also is a substantial amount of asbestos that would need removed. Similar situation for the closed developmental center in Lincoln


  18. - Earnest - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:48 pm:

    >IDOC has almost no matching federal funding. Their budget is pure state funding. How much do they need to run a fully staffed department? They were about $2 billion a year. Would another $500 million do it?

    Not my area of expertise, but first think I’d look at would be how to do what they’re already doing in a way that’s Medicaid billable, collect the FMAP, save 50% GRF and use the savings to help address the problems. Can’t be that simple, but first avenue I’d want explored.


  19. - Powerhouse Prowler - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 4:00 pm:

    Singer Mental Health closed. Tinley Park Emat Health Center closed. Jacksonville Development Center closed. Lincoln Development Centrt closed. Just in the lasy ten years. Did I miss any?


  20. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 4:01 pm:

    I think there will be a lot more of these “failures” being revealed in the coming days.
    Things swept under rugs
    Unmarked graves of programs and problems
    Lots of financial dark arts

    Truth and reconciliation
    I hope JB in particular hires a lot of
    Financial forensic folks
    Auditor and inspector general types

    Get the funding
    Back to the people
    Back to the common good

    Maybe it wasn’t going there in the first place
    Even more reason to go full steam
    Towards it

    No perfidy
    Openness and transparency
    Then intensionally
    Go about fixing.

    Truth and reconciliation


  21. - Bobby Hicks - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 4:06 pm:

    “Why not reopen JDC”. In addition to what Theq said, it would cost at least 3.5 million to convert it from coal to Ameren. The place is a mess.


  22. - Juice - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 5:01 pm:

    Powerhouse Prowler, Howe Developmental Center was also closed in the last 10 years.


  23. - jim - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 5:20 pm:

    Hey Rich, you deleted my post but forgot to delete Wordslinger’s response to my post.


  24. - jim - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 5:23 pm:

    Rich, the point is that these people are a mess either in or out of prison. To expect them to be better inside than outside is naive. of course, that doesn’t mean they should not be treated in a humane fashion. they are beset by drug, alcohol and mental illness issues. You and Wordslinger needs to get out more.


  25. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 5:33 pm:

    –Rich, the point is that these people are a mess either in or out of prison. To expect them to be better inside than outside is naive–

    You didn’t read the post at all, did you? Maybe you could exert yourself a wee bit before washing your hands of it all with some juvenile snark.


  26. - illini - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 6:07 pm:

    So tell me, who has been in charge for the past 4 years and who has failed to correct this situation?


  27. - Been there - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 7:19 pm:

    Maybe the state could hire the mental health professionals themselves instead of paying Wexford to do it for them. JS


  28. - SI Native - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 7:49 pm:

    Even if the State could afford the number of psychiatrists called for in the Rasho settlement - and it cannot - the other problem is that no psychiatrist is willing to live in Dixon, or Pontiac, or Lincoln, or Chester…. Wexford has tried to get them and no one will do it because it would require them moving to one of those towns or a crazy commute from Chicago. The settlement restricts telepsychiatry, so they can’t go that route.

    Between that and the Restrictions in the settlement on the number that have to be state employees (and the problems in hiring that involves) and you can’t staff these facilities to the requirements of the settlement.

    The fact that DOC is now the mental health provider is the real problem. Prisons aren’t state hospitals, and it is unfair and unrealistic to expect them to be.


  29. - Anon - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 7:57 pm:

    For those trying to use this against Rauner, please stop. The issues of mental health care for inmates did not start or worsen under Rauner. The suit,as Rich noted, was filed years ago. And it is not just money. A significant issue has been finding providers willing to service prisoners, especially for the government rate.


  30. - ChanceMcCall - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 7:58 pm:

    - illini - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 6:07 pm:

    So tell me, who has been in charge for the past 4 years and who has failed to correct this situation?-

    Come on now, this is far too serious and important a subject to use as political fodder. I’m a conservative so I should be hard hearted - right? This situation goes back to the 1970s when the government decided to start changing the way they dealt with the mentally ill.

    Most of these people should have been in a treatment facility even before they committed a crime. Prisons are not conducive to treating mental illness which is part of the problem of not being able to hire the professionals they need.

    Get some perspective. Real problems that cause human misery need to be more than political fodder for partisans.


  31. - Generic Drone - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 8:00 pm:

    JDC will never be re opened. They have gutted the buildings and the state has left it in disrepair.


  32. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 8:07 pm:

    - theq - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:06 pm:

    if only there were more mental health residential facilities….. oh wait there were failed governor before this failed governor cut them >

    This should not be a political blame game. That said much of this started with Dan Walker a Democrat who thought it was “more humane” to turn people loose on the streets with a Rx for their psychotropics. This inhumane practice has continued ever since by both the legislatures and the Governors. The result is predictable: the unstable end up in prison because of their inability to control their impulses or their muddled thinking.


  33. - theq - Thursday, Nov 1, 18 @ 8:44 am:

    @anon that wasn’t throwing blame it was fact. As was your comment. One of the few positive things I have to say about Rauner is that he kept the Murray Center in Centralia open. It was next on Quinns chopping block


  34. - Values Voters - Thursday, Nov 1, 18 @ 9:34 am:

    === this is far too serious and important a subject to use as political fodder. ===

    Shouldn’t elections hinge on the “serious and important” issues, like mismanagement at DCFS, mismanagement at EPA, mismanagement at IDOC, and mismanagement at the Quincy veteran’s home?

    Or would you rather we only talk about toilets?


  35. - Dad of 4 - Thursday, Nov 1, 18 @ 9:53 am:

    These are many of the same people we had in the Supermax prison for all those years in isolation.


  36. - ChanceMcCall - Thursday, Nov 1, 18 @ 1:18 pm:

    === - Values Voters - Thursday, Nov 1, 18 @ 9:34 am:

    === this is far too serious and important a subject to use as political fodder. ===

    Shouldn’t elections hinge on the “serious and important” issues, like mismanagement at DCFS, mismanagement at EPA, mismanagement at IDOC, and mismanagement at the Quincy veteran’s home?

    Or would you rather we only talk about toilets?===

    My point is, blaming only Rauner, is ignoring the reasons for the problems in the first place. Does he deserve part of the blame? Absolutely. But before you castigate him for the way Illinois deals with the mentally ill, you have to blame all of the legislatures and all of the Governors that ran before him.

    Frankly, I don’t think any Governor can or will solve this problem in a single term or even multiple terms. In Illinois it is worse than many other states because this state is broke and so deep in debt that the problem of the mentally ill is going to take a back seat to other more explosive issues for years to come.

    And yes, ads about toilets are not what I would like to see, but none of JB’s ads thrill me either. I am not naive, so I understand why candidates run the lies and half-truth ads about their opponents, but, that doesn’t make me like those ads. It also doesn’t give me any hope that anyone will ever run a truthful and fact filled campaign anytime soon. The truth is when we throw out people we consider lying, cheating, corrupt, and larcenous, b@$tareds we end replacing them with new lying, cheating, corrupt, and larcenous b@$tards.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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