Anonymous complaints alleging abuse or neglect at nursing homes no longer would be investigated under a bill sponsored by an Illinois lawmaker

H.B. 5601, introduced in February of this year by Rep. Mike Unes (R) and backed by the nursing home industry, would require identifying information from people filing complaints about neglect or abuse in a nursing home.  Under this proposed legislation authorities would not initiation investigations alleging abuse should the complaint be filed anonymously. This would allow nursing home investigators to be able to contact people who filed complaints to obtain more information and it could deter legitimate complaints  due to fear of retaliation.

This bill does not take into account the vulnerability and health of residents and employees and could lead to underreporting of neglect and abuse and the state’s Department on Aging publicly opposes the bill.  “Any attempt at removing the ability to report abuse or neglect anonymously is failing to put residents first,” department spokeswoman Veronica Vera said.

Simply put, any legislation that adds a barrier between whistleblowers and investigators is likely to put nursing home residents safety at risk.

“Here’s one of my biggest problems: Every other hotline in Illinois allows for anonymous complaints, whether for child abuse, domestic violence or 911,” says Jamie Freschi, Illinois’s long-term care ombudsman.  “If this bill passes, elder Americans won’t be afforded the same rights.”

Other organizations that oppose the bill include AARP Illinois, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Service Employees International Union and Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen.

The website www.followthemoney.org lists hospitals and nursing homes as one of Unes’ top campaign contributors, with a total of $86, 918 in donations from 2009 until present .  These donations may not affect Unes position with regard to this bill, but it is certainly a possibility that they do.  Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has not taken a public position on the bill,  but he did receive around $30,000 in campaign contributions from various nursing homes entities between 10/2014-11/2015 and is a former investor in nursing homes.

The bill is still being edited in committee, as of April 22, 2016.

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