ACLU accuses Illinois nursing homes of using scare tactics to keep mentally ill residents

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The American Civil Liberties Union is accusing some for-profit nursing home operators in Illinois of using “scare tactics” to keep psychiatric residents in their facilities, according to local reports.

A nursing home task force recently recommended that mentally ill residents be housed in smaller residential programs. (McKnight's, 2/22/10) Now the ACLU is charging that “information sheets” distributed to some of these residents by their for-profit facilities are purposefully designed to frighten and mislead the residents in order to convince them to stay, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The ACLU argues that these sheets cause "confusion, misunderstanding and fear" among the mentally ill residents. One such sheet claimed that the relocation program "doesn't say where you'll move, how you'll pay rent, how you'll be fed, who will help you with your medication and other medical needs, or what happens if you don't like it and want to return to the facility," the Tribune reported.

Under the new program, which is awaiting approval from a federal judge, residents can choose to stay in their nursing homes or move to residential programs. Before being placed in subsidized apartments or care homes with on-site care staff, the residents would be subject to screenings. A judge is expected to rule on the information sheets soon, according to the Tribune.