Monday, January 12, 2009

Mental health facilities closure on hold

By Hilary Russell

The decision whether to permanently close Howe Developmental Center and Tinley Park Mental Health Center in the Chicago suburbs has been postponed. Illinois Issues wrote about it in June 2008. The federal government decertified the facilities in 2007 when reports revealed that clients were unnecessarily drugged or restrained without medical justification.

Legislators on the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability decided that in the wake of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment by the Illinois House, it was better to wait until a full Senate trial determined whether Blagojevich would be kicked out of office.

“In light of these developments,” said Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, reading from a draft report outlining the commission’s opinion on the closures, “given these extraordinary circumstances, the responsible action is to quarantine this transaction.”

The commission said it would make a decision within 60 days after the Senate impeachment trial is completed. The trial is scheduled to start January 26.

Nine panel members affirmed the decision, while one dissented. Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, said the state has waited long enough and has spent millions of dollars that could have been spread out to other facilities.

According to the draft, five people have died since October and at least one in December, alone, accounting for more than 25 deaths in the past few years.

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