Convicted mentally ill felons are sleeping among our beloved grandparents in Illinois nursing homes. They are also doing more than sleep. For example, a frail man blind in one eye was slashed in the throat by a gang member, police say. About a year earlier, the same assailant allegedly had stabbed him in the face with an ice pick.
More than any other state, Illinois relies heavily on nursing homes to house mentally ill patients, including those who have committed crimes. But a Tribune investigation found that government, law enforcement and the industry have failed to adequately manage the resulting influx of younger residents who shuttle into nursing facilities from jail cells, shelters and psychiatric wards.
Mentally ill patients now constitute more than 15 percent of the state’s total nursing home population of 92,225, government records show, and the number of residents convicted of serious felonies has increased to 3,000. Among them are 82 convicted murderers, 179 sex offenders and 185 armed robbers.
The state’s background checks on new residents are riddled with errors and omissions that understate their criminal records, the Tribune found, and homes with the most felons are among those with the lowest nursing staff levels.
But even Illinois’ largest nursing home owners’ association, the Health Care Council of Illinois, told the Tribune it was concerned about the practice of mingling mentally ill criminals with traditional, geriatric residents. The council advocates creating separate, specialized facilities that would provide mental health treatment to high-risk patients with felony convictions. State public health officials also said they would support a separate licensing and regulatory process for nursing facilities that serve psychiatric patients.
So who is the “responsible” jerk here? It must be “them”.