Breen Seeks to Lift Veil of Secrecy on Group Home Abuse Records

In response to the Chicago Tribune’s investigation late last year into health and safety violations at group homes that provide services to adults with disabilities in Illinois, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) has filed transparency legislation that would allow Illinois citizens greater access to group home performance records.

“The Chicago Tribune uncovered more than 1,300 instances of abuse and neglect in a study of taxpayer-funded group homes from 2013-2016, and 42 of those cases involved client deaths,” said Breen. “They uncovered an alarming trend that showed the facilities that were the worst offenders were shielded from public scrutiny due to exemption provisions in the Freedom of Information Act. As long as we can preserve a sense of privacy of individual clients who experienced abuse, the public should be able to access information about which institutions are failing to provide the level of safety and care our state’s most vulnerable citizens deserve.”

HB 3515, filed last week in Springfield, seeks to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to allow currently blocked information to be available to the public. According to Breen, today’s confidentiality statues are excessive and deprive Illinoisans of information to which they should have easy access. “These facilities that service adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are hiding behind broad confidentiality statutes, and in some cases it has resulted in gross negligence and a complete lack of accountability,” Breen said. “Through HB 3515, watchdogs, concerned citizens, and the media will be able to know when and where these abuses are occurring.”

Breen’s legislation would complement a series of reforms proposed by the Illinois Department of Human Services in the wake of the Tribune’s investigative report.

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