Local Law Enforcement Join Rep. Meier Urging Passage of Legislation to Improve Safety and Care at Illinois Group Homes

Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) at a Capitol press conference on Tuesday, discussed his legislative proposals to help improve the safety and well-being of residents at Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) otherwise called “group homes”. Rep. Meier was joined by Clinton County Sheriff Dan Travous, Aviston Police Chief Mike Kuhl, and Peggy Strong, the mother of Marjorie, a former CILA resident who is now thriving at Murray Center.

According to State Representative Charlie Meier, “The legislation I have introduced will help protect residents of CILAS (group homes) and State Operated Developmental Centers (SODCs). These are bills to help people that can’t talk for themselves. We are here to stand up and fight for their safety and well-being. I want to be clear, not all CILAs are bad, we have many good ones, but we sure do have some bad ones. Changes need to be made to help prevent abuse and neglect from ever happening again.”

Clinton County Sheriff Dan Travous shared his experience with the increase in 9-1-1 emergency calls to specific CILAs in the county. According to Sheriff Travous, “We have noticed a large uptick and problems out of the CILAs recently within the last few years. We’ve noticed certain homes are more prone to many more calls for service and more serious types of calls whether it be sexual assault, residents walking through the community, going into people’s homes, and we’ve noticed more issues with inadequate staffing and staffing that is not trained.”

Representing a small community of about 2,300 people. Aviston Police Chief Mike Kuhl went in detail concerning the number of emergency calls at three CILAs in his community. He referenced them as CILAs 1, 2, and 3. Since 2020, CILA 3 had 67 emergency calls compared to 5 medical emergencies for CILA 1 and CILA 2. Concerning CILA 3 according to Chief Kuhl. “Fifty eight calls have been serious in nature, including resident-on-resident violence, resident violence towards staff, and suicidal calls.”

Chief Kuhl added that there were, “Nineteen different incidents where the resident walked away from the facility and is either sitting on the side of the road or a busy highway.” Kuhl cited the reason being a staff shortage at the CILA as they only have one person working, they can’t leave the CILA to go out and search for this person so it’s up to law enforcement to locate the individual. Over the last six months, two sexual assaults occurred at CILA 3 and most recently Aviston police responded to an incident where two CILA residents were in the front yard fighting and they had to go back to the scene to get the situation settled down and it’s not even an hour later the police had to go back.

A mother shared her experience, Peggy Strong shared her story about how her daughter was literally on her death bed while living in a CILA in Pinckneyville. Ms. Strong’s daughter Marjorie was put on hospice and was not fed while living in a CILA. She also shared a photo of a bruise in the shape of a shoe Marjorie sustained on her leg while residing at the CILA.

According to Peggy, “There was little training and oversight of staff at her CILA. Staff turnover was high and staff had no medical background. I personally provided much of the training and oversight of the CILA staff with daily checks and updates. Marjorie suffered abuse, neglect and many unexplained injuries in the CILA and she became increasingly ill and more and more medically fragile. The CILA could not possibly meet Marjorie’s medical or care needs.”

With the help of Rep. Meier and Sen. Bryant, Peggy’s daughter Marjorie was transferred to Murray Center in Centralia, where today she is able to ride her bicycle and receive the quality care she deserves in order to live her best life.

The three bills Rep. Meier sponsored to help improve the safety and well-being of residents at Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) include HB 1298, HB 2998, and HB 3545.

House Bill 1298 requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to establish a system of regular and ongoing on-site inspections and unannounced visits. The second bill, House Bill 2998 will require authorized video surveillance of common areas. Before video surveillance equipment is installed or operated in the common areas of a State-operated developmental center, DHS must obtain unanimous consent from the residents of that facility or their guardians. The third and final bill, House Bill 3545 requires that reports of violations at CILAs shall be made no later than 5 days after the incident. If a person involved in direct care for a CILA resident commits battery towards a client, patient or resident can be charged with a class 2 felony.

The video of Tuesday’s press conference hosted by Rep. Charlie Meier calling for CILA Safety Reform can be viewed here.

State Representative Charlie Meier represents the 109th District which includes portions of Bond, Clinton, Madison, St. Clair, and Washington counties.

For more information, please visit CharlieMeier.net or contact Rep. Meier’s district office at 618-651-0405.