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June 10, 2002

Safety Concerns Force Closure of Lincoln Developmental Center

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan announced today that the process of closing the troubled Lincoln Developmental Center will begin on July 1 because of new alleged incidents of improper supervision which indicate to developmental disability professionals that “health and safety issues remain” at the LDC campus.

The Department of Human Services Inspector General is investigating four separate incidents in four days where staff failed to provide proper supervision to residents, placing people at imminent risk of injury. The new investigations come despite the fact that the facility’s staffing levels are among the highest ratios of any other state-run facility for the developmentally disabled.

Staff professionals at DHS told the governor in a letter last week that an on-going lawsuit by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has “thwarted” efforts by DHS to initiate reforms and help LDC keep its federal certification.

“This is a very difficult decision because it is going to disrupt the lives of many people who call LDC home, as well as their families. But I have no choice,” Ryan said. “These new incidents are the last straw. I want to make it clear that my decision was not influenced by the state’s revenue shortfall but out of concern for the health and safety of residents at the Lincoln Developmental Center.”

The Lincoln Developmental Center was given until July to come into compliance with federal standards under an agreement reached by DHS, the Department of Public Aid and the Department of Public Health, which act as regulators for the federal government.

The inability to implement the plan had put the facility at risk of failing a survey scheduled for July, which in turn would cause the facility to lose federal funding.

“We’ve tried to implement reforms at LDC for some time, but our efforts have been undermined by AFSCME and the staff at LDC,” Ryan added.

Last week Human Services Secretary Linda Renee Baker and DHS professional staff recommended to the governor that LDC be closed because the lawsuit filed by AFSCME prevented the implementation of the reform plan, as well as the new incidents of resident neglect.

“The latest allegations of neglect of two residents at LDC are deeply troubling to me,” Baker said in a letter to the governor. “Based on the professional judgement of my staff, it is now my opinion that without the ability to implement your Reform Plan, we cannot operate LDC in a manner that ensures the health and safety of the residents and the facility must close.”

Baker added that the projected timeline of the on-going AFSCME litigation will run beyond the end of June.

“Accordingly, our reform plan calling for a re-survey with a population of 100 has been thwarted,” Baker said. “Without the ability to implement the reform plan we outlined to the federal government, we contemplate that deficiencies at this facility will continue.”

Baker added that the AFSCME litigation has resulted in “continued uncertainty” at LDC and “higher than usual absenteeism rates among staff,” as well as overtime, double shifts and a reliance on administrative staff to do day-to-day tasks instead of initiating reforms that would help the facility stay certified.

“…we regretfully conclude that the continuing litigation has prevented this facility from making any significant progress toward the objectives you outlined in your reform plan. The most recent incidents appear to indicate that health and safety issues remain,” Baker wrote.

A timeline and procedure for transferring LDC residents and dealing with employees and facility property will be outlined at a later date.

Despite court orders that have frozen the LDC staffing ratio at approximately 2.13-to-one, monitoring reports in April and May continued to identify significant substandard performance in the care and treatment provided to the people who live at LDC.

On June 4, two incidents involving a lack of proper supervision were reported to DPH and the DHS inspector general.

In one incident an individual was left unsupervised and wandered away from his home without the knowledge of staff. The second incident involved an individual who was left unsupervised long enough to engage in self-abusive behavior, which had the potential for very serious injury. After initiating an investigation into the two incidents on June 7, DPH cited an “Immediate Jeopardy” at LDC. Also on June 7, a third and fourth incident involving breaches in supervision were reported.

The third incident involved an individual who was left alone in his home after everyone else had left the building for the morning. The fourth incident involved an individual with picah behavior who was forgotten at her day program site when the rest of her group returned home. A housekeeper found her alone in a bathroom.

“These latest incidents are indicative of the historical situation at LDC and will no longer be tolerated,” the governor added.

In October of 2001, the governor implemented a plan to downsize LDC by 90 people in response to LDC being cited on four of eight conditions related to the safety of residents and the quality of care they receive. He ordered 30-day reviews in order to assess LDC’s progress in correcting its problems.

In December, following the second review, Ryan visited LDC and based on continued problems at the facility, ordered further downsizing.

In January of 2002, the governor directed DHS to provide him with a plan for either further downsizing or closure of the facility.

After listening to the families of LDC residents, Ryan announced in February that the facility would be downsized to 100 residents. This plan to downsize laid the groundwork for a negotiated agreement that would afford LDC the opportunity to stay open as a certified 100-bed facility if it passed a final survey set for July. However, later that month AFSCME filed a lawsuit to block the movement of residents out of LDC. In April, a Logan County Circuit Court ordered a preliminary injunction halting the planned downsizing.


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