“We are thrilled with Illinois’ decision,” said Adam Ballard, Access Living’s Youth Community Organizer. “Alden Village North represents a threat to children with disabilities who live there. We hope this leads to a rapid closure because closing the nursing home is the right thing to do.”
Alden Village North, at 7464 North Sheridan Road, is home to nearly 100 people with developmental disabilities, including children. Since 2000, 13 children and young adults with disabilities at Alden Village North have died due to neglect and poor services. Seven of those deaths occurred since 2008. In one case, a nine-year-old boy died due to extreme neglect. Even though the boy’s school sent him back to the nursing home two days in a row because he was too ill to attend classes, Alden North staff failed to notify the child’s doctor until the third day, at which point it was too late. He died soon after the doctor was finally notified. “It is atrocious that nine year olds are living and dying in nursing homes,” said Ballard, “especially in light of the fact that there are opportunities to develop quality, community-based systems of support in Illinois.”
For years, Illinois disability advocates have pushed Illinois to offer more service options in the community and to stop the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities. Though recent legal settlements offer hope that Illinois will start to deinstitutionalize people who choose to receive services in the community, Illinois still institutionalizes people with disabilities at a higher rate than most other states. As a result, thousands are forced to live in institutions. In a system that doesn’t offer quality service choices, institutions such as Alden North often go unchecked too long.
“We hope that revoking Alden North’s license is the first step toward closing this dangerous institution and developing quality community based placements for the residents so that young people with disabilities have the chance to in communities close to their families and friends,” Ballard said.
Alden Village North is part of Alden Management Services, which runs approximately 20 nursing homes across Illinois. In 2010, soon after reports of neglect surfaced in the Chicago Tribune, Access Living, along with groups such as Chicago ADAPT, Progress Center for Independent Living, the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, and the Community Renewal Society, joined together in coalition to hold Alden accountable for the deaths of Alden North residents, insisting that it make system wide changes to improve safety and care at Alden North as well as other Alden facilities. Last November, the coalition protested at the main office of Alden. The coalition demanded that Alden management meet with members of the disability community to account for the deaths and neglect at Alden Village North, commit to improving services throughout the Alden system, and pay the balance of the fines issued to Alden by the State. At that point, Alden had paid just $20,000 of $190,000 in fines.
“Allowing institutions such as Alden Village North to operate is an insult to the memories of the children who died because of poor care,” Ballard continued. “We urge Illinois to close Alden Village and to do all it can to ensure the current residents are transitioned to quality, integrated placements in the communities near their families.”
Established in 1980, Access Living is a non-profit, Chicago-based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer-based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is a leading force in the community. Committed to challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers, Access Living is a nationally recognized change agent at the forefront of the disability rights movement.