You might think that nursing homes are places where we send our elderly loved ones to receive care when we ourselves cannot care for them. And while this is true, the state of Illinois has extended the function of nursing homes to also include providing care for the mentally ill. Over 18,000 mentally ill patients are currently living in some form of nursing home.These "institutions for mental disease" (IMDs), are not only very expensive, but they are very dangerous for the elderly residents who are living in close-quarters with mentally unstable patients.
According to BND.com,
IMDs have come under increasing scrutiny because of safety, as well as cost. Somerset Place in Chicago, which houses more than 300 residents and received nearly $15 million in Illinois taxpayer money last year, may lose its state license over resident assaults, lack of treatment and failure to supervise a female resident who sometimes left the facility to solicit sex and was found slain in a nearby motel.
Somerset’s attorneys have asked for a hearing on the possible license revocation.
The American Civil Liberties Union also has filed a class-action lawsuit against Illinois, claiming the state is violating the residents’ civil rights by housing them in institutions. The suit is based on a 1999 landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires community placement of the mentally disabled whenever appropriate, and that segregating the mentally ill amounted to "unjustified isolation."
The federal and state governments are finally stepping in, and are discouraging the creation of any more IMDs. The problem is that there are not enough mental facilities in Illinois to house all of the patients that would be displaced from nursing homes, which would cause an increase in homelessness and in hospital admissions.
Still, it is very unsafe for mentally unstable people to be housed with elderly people, especially when most of these IMDs cannot afford to hire staff that are properly trained to deal with the mentally handicapped. I hope that the government of Illinois and the federal government work together to come up with an effective solution to this problem, because this situation just doesn’t work.