Bias Against Mentally Ill in Illinois, Group Says

     CHICAGO (CN) – Illinois improperly lets diagnoses of mental illness dictate which citizens it places in state nursing facilities, a fair-housing nonprofit told a federal judge.
     The Hope Fair Housing Center, also known as H.O.P.E. Inc., raised the claims in three federal complaints filed respectively Friday against Alden Gardens of Bloomingale, Tabor Hills Supportive Living Community, and East Gate Manor of Algonquin.
     Hope says its testers called each of the defendant facilities and told staff members that they were looking for information on placing a 74-year-old aunt with partial paralysis.
     The complaint against Eastgate notes that the tester said her aunt was bipolar with anxiety disorder, but that the condition was fully controlled with medication.
     “You wouldn’t even know that she has it thanks to the medication,” the tester said.
     Hope says the staff member “responded that she had to stop the tester there because Eastgate Manor was not able to accept anyone with a primary or secondary diagnosis of mental illness.”
     The staff member “further stated that there are very few places that will accept anyone with a mental health diagnosis,” according to the complaint.
     Other testers made similar calls, claiming that their relatives suffered from a physical disability, as well as a mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia or depression. All said that the condition was controlled with medication.
     The testers found, however, that “it is the overwhelming policy and practice of the Illinois Supportive Living Program to determine that individuals who have mental illness diagnoses are ineligible for SLF placement,” even if they have a qualifying physical disability or need nursing-facility care, according to the complaint.
     All three complaints challenge the denial of housing services to people who qualify for Illinois’ Medicaid Waiver Supportive Living Program but have a mental health disability.
     Defendants “challenged policies and practices include denying individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to apply if they also have mental diagnoses or disability and publishing statements that people with mental diagnoses or disability are not eligible,” the complaints state.
     Hope seeks an injunction preventing defendants from issuing blanket “no mental illness” policies affecting Medicaid recipients.
     It is represented by Jennifer Soule with Soule, Bradtke & Lambert, with assistance from Susan Ann Silverstein with the AARP Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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