Ill. nursing homes mix elderly with mentally ill, criminals

Yesterday, FierceHealthcare detailed the conclusions of a GAO report contending that the number of unsafe nursing homes in the U.S. could be four times higher than the number of homes CMS has targeted for improvement. In Illinois, the problem seems to be particularly bad, with dangerous mentally ill patients now constituting a substantial minority of nursing home patients there, according to a new piece in the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois officials are apparently in the habit of using nursing homes to house mentally ill patients, including those fresh out of jail. In fact, according to statistics obtained by the Tribune, mentally ill patients make up more than 15 percent of the state's total nursing-home population of 92,225. The number of those residents who've been convicted of felonies has grown to 3,000, including 82 convicted murderers, 179 sex offenders and 185 armed robbers, the newspaper's research concludes.

Observers say that this has led to numerous assaults and other crimes in nursing homes, but since state authorities don't track the rate of such crimes there, it's difficult to say exactly how common such incidents are. However, it does appear that the situation is ripe for problems, as homes with the most felons are often those with the lowest nursing staff levels, the Tribune concluded.

The state's biggest nursing home owners' association, the Health Care Council of Illinois, told the newspaper that it was worried about putting mentally ill criminals with traditional elderly residents. It is pushing for creating separate facilities that would treat high-risk patients with felony convictions. State officials say they'd also support a separate licensing procedure for nursing homes serving psychiatric patients, but haven't taken action as of yet.

To get more details from the Tribune analysis:
- read this piece

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