KANKAKEE – In response to recent reports of abuse at the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee, House Assistant Minority Leader Jackie Haas (R-Kankakee) is joining Assistant Minority Leader Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) in supporting his legislative plan to make significant reforms at Illinois developmental centers.
“I, like many people in the 79th District and Kankakee area, was extremely disturbed by the reports and footage of abuse at the Shapiro Developmental Center,” said Leader Haas. “I’m joining Leader Meier to advocate for this legislation to make these critically needed reforms for our state’s most vulnerable residents. These centers are their homes, and they deserve to be treated with basic dignity and compassion. I will work with Rep. Meier to ensure these residents at the Shapiro Center and across Illinois receive the best quality care that is administered with respect and empathy in the places they call home.”
Leader Haas is a co-sponsor of three pieces of legislation from Leader Meier’s “Help Protect Us and Improve Our Home” plan: House Bills 1298, 2998, and 3545. This plan was released by Leader Meier in February 2023 following reports of neglect and abuse at the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in southern Illinois. The plan intends to make improvements at Illinois developmental centers and work with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and elected officials to create safe and healthy spaces these residents can call home.
“Leader Haas and I have been working together to make sure that anyone who commits abuse towards our most vulnerable is punished to the full extent of the law and will not be allowed to work with our most vulnerable ever again,” said Leader Meier. “I hope the Inspector General acts quickly on this investigation. This is why our plan to improve the safety of our most vulnerable includes the installation of cameras at Shapiro and all State-operated Developmental Centers (SODCs) and Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs). I have fought abuse in CILAs for a long time, when there is a death, rape, or an individual that escaped a CILA and is on the street – these stories are rarely brought forth. In CILAs there is only one employee, so there is nobody to report the abuse. This is why we need random inspections. We will continue to work with DHS and I hope they will listen to me more as we work to end the abuse and neglect happening in developmental centers and group homes in the state of Illinois.”
In addition to the three pieces of legislation Leader Haas is co-sponsoring, the “Help Protect Us and Improve Our Home” plan has the following suggested improvements to be made by IDHS:
- Install cameras in common areas
- Implement ongoing staff training
- A mass hiring of qualified staff to help
- Track staff incidents by location and trends
- Increase administrative and security inspections
- Improve overall accountability of staff performance
- Remind employees if they see something is wrong, report it
- Increase the amount of active treatment and activities for residents
- Encourage and welcome parents/guardians visiting their loved ones
- Assign an interim director or assistant director to Choate Developmental Center
- Reevaluate the Office of Inspector General reporting system as it currently operates
Earlier this month, a CBS Chicago investigation released information on alleged abuse at the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee. The Illinois State Police and IDHS are investigating these allegations of abuse, which include strangulation, taking away meals, and preventing residents from going to the bathroom.
Leader Haas is the chair of the House Republican Supporting Women and Families working group. She also serves as the House Republican spokesperson for the Health Care Availability and Access and Mental Health and Addiction committees. She serves on the Appropriations – Health and Human Services, Human Services, and Prescription Drug Affordability committees. In addition to her work as a state legislator, Leader Haas is the CEO of the Helen Wheeler Center for Community Mental Health and has worked as a social worker in the Kankakee area for over 30 years.
To file a report of abuse, neglect, or exploitation with the Division of Developmental Disabilities of the Illinois Department of Human Services, individuals can visit this link here.