In 2009, the Chicago Tribune began running a series about the abdication of responsibility by the State of Illinois over terrible "care" provided by nursing homes to people with a serious mental illness, and the terrible things done to and sometimes by them.  The series, and a similar one the the next year about nursing homes for children and adults with developmental disabilities, created public pressure and shaming to improve nursing home care.  We are proud nad grateful that the Tribune reporters came first to ICBC to learn how nursing homes run and are regulated in Illinois, and for help securing documents that were the key to their investigation.  We were able to use our knowledge and experience, and the respectful personal connections we had built up over many years, to help them repeatedly in their initial stories and follow-up.


From the beginning, we knew that the Tribune series would be our best chance in a generation to improve nursing home care in Illinois.  It was critical that the stories in the first series not focus on mentally ill people as inherently dangerous, or the real source of the problem.  For meaningful reform to occur, we needed not to waver from emphasizing that Illinois would get better nursing homes only with more and better trained nursing home staff, and more informed and vigorous regulation, 


The 2009 stories led Governor Quinn to create a Nursing Home Resident Safety Task Force.  We testified several times before the task force, and worked with others to make sure that the group did not limit its attention to issues of care for people with mental illness.  The final report of the Task Force did not recommend the comprehensive legislative reform we knew was necessary, but it did agree on the crucial points:  the problems were broader than just about care for people with mental illness, and the solutions needed to be, too.


ICBC did not wait for the report of the Task Force to start working on a legislative solution.  We started a working group on legislative reform the same day as the first Task Force meeting.  This merged into a larger group convened by the Illinois AARP -- ultimately dozens of organizations around the state supporint nursing home reform.  ICBC then wrote a comprehensive nursing home reform  much of which is now law.  The bill was aimed at the appalling neglect and abuse exposed by the Tribune reporters, and racially discriminatory nursing home staffing exposed by the Chicago Reporter.  (The Chicago Reporter used ICBC extensively as a resource, as well.)


ICBC joined with the Illinois AARP and SEIU Healthcare Illinois in leading the months of negotiations in Springfield about nursing home reform.  The resulting bill was not perfect, but it was major progress.