Biss: Abuse, neglect of developmentally disabled is a crisis, not a political opportunity

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CHICAGO – Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding the findings of today’s joint Senate and House hearing about the abuse and neglect of developmentally disabled men and women in taxpayer-funded group homes throughout Illinois:

“Today we heard testimony from a variety of people who care deeply about the well-being and the safety of developmentally disabled men and women throughout Illinois.

“But the State of Illinois is failing these vulnerable residents every day that goes by without implementing comprehensive, meaningful changes to address the root causes of the alarming, gut-wrenching stories documented in the Chicago Tribune’s ‘Suffering in Secret’ series.

“I appreciate the testimony of Secretary Dimas and Inspector General McCotter, as well as the action they already have taken to address problems and their recommendations for changes going forward.

“However, I am disappointed that some of my colleagues in the legislature view this crisis as an opportunity for political finger-pointing rather than a moment for bipartisan cooperation to save lives and pave the way for a better future for vulnerable Illinoisans.

“Let’s not pretend that the solutions to this very serious problem lie in the past. The solutions can only be found in partnership with the current governor and his administration – one that went to great lengths to conceal important information about group home abuse and neglect from the public, from the victims’ families and from the media.

“It is incumbent upon Gov. Rauner to give this crisis the attention it deserves, to put forth a budget for the state of Illinois and to ensure financial and staff resources are put where they’re most desperately needed today.

“Not only does that include working with the Legislature to designate money to properly pay group home caregivers, it also means immediately filling the lapsed gubernatorial appointments on the board that oversees these group homes for developmentally disabled adults.

“All of us – Gov. Rauner, the Legislature, state officials, group home operators and caregivers – have a moral obligation to do all we can to prevent any more instances of the kinds of abuse, neglect and death that were documented by the Tribune.

“My heart goes out to the families that are grappling with the state’s failure to protect their loved ones as it promised to do. It’s clear to me that the time has come for significant changes in what clearly is a flawed system.”