FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Zena Naiditch, President and CEO
(312) 895-7314 (Voice)
Deborah Kennedy, Director of Abuse Investigation Unit
(312) 895-7304 (Voice)
(800) 610-2779 (TTY)
Equip for Equality Urgently Calls for Closure of Dangerous State-Run Institution for People with Disabilities Following Additional Deaths
Senseless Deaths Continue at Howe Developmental Center as a Result of Egregious Care
CHICAGO (March 8, 2007) -- Citing further evidence of substandard care and critical errors by staff at Howe Developmental Center in connection with 3 more deaths at the state-run institution, Equip for Equality is now calling for the State to take urgent action to close the institution, ensure the safety of the individuals living there and prevent further deaths.
Equip for Equality's Abuse Investigation Unit conducted a review of 3 additional deaths at Howe, 2 of which occurred in the last several weeks. The Investigation Unit concluded that the quality of the care provided to these 3 individuals and the circumstances surrounding their deaths, represent the same kind of critical failures which resulted in the initial call for closure of the institution last month by Equip for Equality, The Arc of Illinois, United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois, the Institute on Disability and Human Development University of Illinois at Chicago and the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities. That action was taken following the senseless deaths of 8 people and repeated instances of substandard care rendered to others who remain at the institution.
The most recent deaths examined by the Investigation Unit again demonstrate that people living at Howe remain at significant risk of dying from the kind of abhorrent care which continues to be rendered - care which is so deficient that the State has been required to pay outside nursing consultants to perform such basic medical procedures as taking vital signs. Details revealed by the examination of the recent deaths include:
- An individual who was profoundly mentally retarded, blind, non-verbal and with significant heart disease was forced to undergo a pap smear without the required antianxiety medication to ensure that she could calmly and safely undergo the procedure. The individual struggled continuously through the test, causing staff to hold her arms and legs in order to complete the procedure. The individual remained upset afterwards and, within an hour of the pap smear, collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack.
- An individual who was severely mentally retarded, with epilepsy, required a wheelchair and was documented to be at high risk of forming blood clots, was not provided with adequate activity or physical therapy to promote sufficient blood circulation to prevent blood clots from forming. No evidence of medication to prevent blood clotting could be found in the individual's medical records or any evidence that medical staff monitored the effectiveness of a surgically implanted filter to prevent blood clots from reaching the heart. Several weeks before the individual's death, staff failed to take vital signs as ordered by a doctor. Several days before the individual's death, stage II decubiti (bed sores) developed on the individual's buttock as a result of limited movement. The individual died suddenly of a suspected blood clot.
- An individual with moderate mental retardation, mental illness and history of hypertension and dangerously elevated blood pressure during restraint episodes, was unlawfully restrained numerous times when staff failed to get a doctor's order approving the restraint and failed to have the individual's medical condition assessed by a qualified licensed independent practitioner. During one restraint episode, the individual was left in restraints despite a dangerously high blood pr essure reading of 200/100. The events immediately preceding the death were not documented in the individual's chart when reviewed by Investigation Unit staff, but hospital records indicate that the individual died of an apparent heart attack.
"Even when extraordinary measures are taken by the State to address these very serious problems, including the use of independent monitors, contract nursing staff, and redeployment of staff from other state run institutions to Howe, people continue to die. These same kinds of extraordinary measures failed when used to save the Lincoln Developmental Center prior to its closure. It's time the State recognize the futility of such measures and take immediate action to begin the process of closing Howe," said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality.
"Howe is unfixable. It is time to redirect these resources to the community where people can be healthy, safe and have a life," said Derrick Dufresne, President and CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities.
Equip for Equality is a private, statewide, not-for-profit organization designated by the Governor to administer the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System for the State of Illinois. Its mission is to advances the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.
The Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities is a private, statewide, not-forprofit group of organizations that promotes best practice and quality community supports for individuals with disabilities and their families throughout Illinois.