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Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 03:23 am

Inspecting the DHS inspector general

Neglect and abuse investigations

The Department of Human Services’ Office of Inspector General needs to improve its handling of investigations, according to a review by state auditors.

The inspector general is responsible for probing neglect and abuse claims at state-supported mental-health and disability service agencies. In the 2008 fiscal year, there 1,631 allegations of abuse and 329 of neglect — a 12 percent increase over 2006. Of those charges, 798 were from state facilities and 1,228 from community agencies.

State law requires a biennial review to assess the OIG’s effectiveness in investigating allegations of abuse at agencies funded, licensed, or certified by the state.

The audit reveals a number of areas where improvement is still needed with respect to investigations. Findings include:

• The OIG has not added serious injuries to its investigative database.

• In 17 of the 117 of cases sampled by auditors, the case was not assigned to an investigator within the required one working day.

• In FY08, 7 percent of alleged incidents of abuse or neglect at facilities and 25 percent at community agencies were not being reported within the four hours required by statute and OIG’s administrative rules.

• For some investigations conducted by community agencies, it was difficult to determine which bureau and investigator was responsible for reviewing the case.

Furthermore, DHS “takes an excessive amount of time to receive and approve the actions taken by the community agency or state facility,” because of staffing shortages, auditors write.

“Not ensuring that that appropriate actions are taken may put client safety at risk,” the audit states.

Auditors recommend that DHS’ OIG consider adding serious injuries to its database allowing investigators to find patterns, work on improving the timeliness of investigations, document cases referred to the Illinois State Police, assign allegations an investigator within one business day, ensure that all cases are reviewed by members of the inspector general’s staff and ensure that allegations are reported within the required timeframes.

Jim Dahlquist, spokesman for Illinois Auditor General William Holland, says while Holland’s office considers all audit findings to be serious, “the OIG has taken significant actions toward implementing recommendations from our previous audit.”

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com

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