House Republicans call for hearings on alleged abuse at mental health facility in Anna


House Republicans on Thursday called for legislative hearings to investigate reports of abuse by staff at a downstate mental health facility.

Rep. Paul Jacobs, R-Pomona, said lawmakers must take action to protect the residents of the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna.

Recent media articles from ProPublica, Lee Enterprises and Capitol News Illinois found the facility has been subject to more than 1,500 complaints to the Department of Human Services over the last decade, with widespread allegations of staff abuse against residents.

“Our concern in this matter is for the dignity, safety, well-being of the 270 residents,” Jacobs said, stressing the facility’s challenges have been a bipartisan issue for decades.

Gov. JB Pritzker reiterated to reporters last week that he may consider shutting down the center if issues cannot be addressed.

But Jacobs said policymakers “cannot and will not accept a blanket policy” that closes the facility, which in turn would affect behavioral health services and employment in the surrounding rural community.

Republicans laid out several requests to reporters, including installing temporary cameras in common areas, implementing staff training to include residents’ rights and a “mass” hiring of staff.

“We’re here today because we have a plan and we want to protect these residents,” said Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville.

AFSCME Council 31 said they will support and partner with “anyone of good will who wants to work to improve” the facility, and noted they have been calling on lawmakers to support staffing and training for years.

“It’s regrettable that it took disturbing media reports of past misconduct to underscore the need for improvements at Choate, but the wrongful actions of a few cannot overshadow the deep commitment of the overwhelming majority of employees to Choate’s residents and to making the facility the best it can be,” they said in a statement. “That must begin with reversing its staff shortage and investing in its physical infrastructure.”

A spokesperson for Pritzker said they are closely monitoring the situation and will announce additional reforms in the coming weeks.