Chicago Area Hospital Loses Funding After Investigation
Federal authorities are pulling funding from a Chicago area psychiatric hospital under investigation following allegations of sexual abuse, assault, and patient safety violations. The hospital’s Medicare agreement is scheduled to terminate on December 15, 2018.
The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had long relied on Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital to treat children in the area with severe mental illness. Separately, U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso, nominated by former President Barack Obama, said he will appoint a “special master” to resolve disputes between DCFS and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois, which has taken the state’s child welfare agency to court.
Alonso acknowledged the situation called for an extraordinary action, but he said he believes the appointment of someone to mediate and resolve major disagreements between DCFS and the ACLU was necessary. “The stakes cannot be higher,” the judge said.
The move Judge Alonso marks the first time a judge has agreed to appoint such a “special master” since the ACLU began monitoring the state’s child welfare agency many years ago. State inspectors found that Lakeshore “failed to ensure patients were free from sexual and physical abuse, did not report abuse allegations to the state Department of Public Health and did not conduct complete investigations of abuse,” according to federal officials. These “constituted an immediate threat to patients’ health and safety,” they wrote in a letter to the hospital’s CEO, David Fletcher-Janzen.
Fletcher-Janzen responded, “vowing to continue its work to comply with federal regulations and provide uninterrupted care to its vulnerable patients.” He said, “We are deeply disappointed that some outside forces seem determined to shutter this facility with little regard for what will become of the children we serve. Chicago Lakeshore Hospital knows improvements can be made and we will continue to steadfastly make those improvements but shutting us down is tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
Dr. Peter Nierman, Lakeshore’s chief medical officer, said, “Many of the children we serve have no place else to go and we offer the best hope for their stabilization and return to society. Frankly, this is a population that virtually no other facility wants to take, and I believe that without Lakeshore, the already tragic story of some of these children will only be further exacerbated.”
Lawmakers and the ACLU demanded an independent review of children in state care at the Chicago area hospital as well as allegations of abuse and neglect. In addition, the ACLU called on DCFS to stop sending children to Lakeshore and to remove all DCFS patients from the hospital. All children have now been removed, according to DCFS, which said it is following up with the children at their new placements.
DCFS Acting Director Beverly “B.J.” Walker said of the “special master” assignment, “If the special master can help resolve disputes between the people who know child welfare and the people who do advocacy, that is a good thing. At the end of the day, this is about vulnerable children and families in Illinois and the need for consistency and sustained improvement in the performance of DCFS. That is our focus as leaders of this agency.”