Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 27, 2024
Shocking Abuse Claims Rock Illinois Disability Centers, Staff Charged and Probed in Patient Mistreatment ScandalsSource: Google Street View

Illinois state facilities for the developmentally disabled are once again in the spotlight as disturbing allegations of patient abuse emerge. At the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Downstate Illinois, a security camera recorded a mental health technician, John Curtis "Curt" Spaulding, grabbing a patient by the shirt, throwing him to the floor, and punching him in the stomach, as per the Chicago Sun-Times. Following an anonymous tip-off, the incident, which occurred in mid-February, was investigated, leading to Spaulding's indictment on charges of aggravated and misdemeanor battery.

Despite the installation of cameras being heralded as a step toward improving safety, the system proved ineffective as the abuse went unreported by witnesses for 11 days, allowing Spaulding to continue working unrestricted. The incident came to light only after an anonymous letter prompted an inquiry. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Spaulding denied the abuse claims and resigned citing difficult working conditions, asserting that he was "better to those guys than 90% of the people who work there."

In an unrelated yet equally troubling case, the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee is under investigation after a former nursing assistant alleged abuse by staff members. She captured a shocking video, depicting a resident being held by the hood of a sweatshirt. The unnamed assistant accused the staff of heinous acts, including putting pillowcases over the residents' heads, choking them, and preventing them from using a bathroom. "I witnessed a lot of pillowcases over the heads of individuals," the assistant told CBS News, detailing her experience of the alleged abuse which she said culminated in her calling the police and leaving her job.

The former nursing assistant's claims of witnessing residents being choked and having their meals taken away have prompted investigations by both the state police and the Department of Human Services. She stated her breaking point was an incident where "four staff put a pillowcase over one of the individual's heads," as she recounted to CBS News.

Illinois State Police have confirmed the ongoing investigation into the Shapiro Developmental Center. In response to the allegations, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Services said, "Staff accused of wrongdoing have been put on administrative leave pending investigation." These incidents come on the heels of previous reports by the same department's Inspector General, which noted 49 allegations of physical abuse last year at the center, with two instances being substantiated.