Staff locked residents with disabilities in 'filthy,' bedbug-ridden facility and left: Dixmoor police
Friday, February 23, 2018
by Mike Nolan and Robert McCoppin
Dixmoor’s police chief said a criminal investigation is being launched after 35 people were evacuated from a squalid, bedbug-ridden local health care facility.
No staff members were on-site and responders had to force their way into the locked care center Thursday night after police received a call from a resident seeking help, police Chief Ron Burge said.
The facility known as The Mothers House is run by the nonprofit Value Care Centers, but Burge said it was operating without a license and his department has previously attempted to shut it down.
Calls to Value Care Centers locations went unanswered Friday. The Mothers House website says the facility at 14127 S. Leavitt Ave. cares for people with behavioral and developmental disabilities.
The police chief said 30 men and five women were evacuated late Thursday amid “deplorable” conditions in the center, tucked back in a heavily industrialized corner of the suburb.
Standing outside the building Friday afternoon, Burge described how police found “garbage everywhere” and an infestation of bedbugs when they arrived the previous night.
“The building was just filthy,” he said.
Residents were evacuated to six area hospitals, and the initial priority is finding housing for them once they leave the hospital. A spokesperson for Ingalls Memorial Hospital said it took in five people from The Mothers House, all of whom were in good condition.
Burge said Friday afternoon that since police arrived late Thursday, no staff members or administrators from the facility have shown up.
“You’ve got to wonder who would run a facility like this,” he told reporters outside the building.
Even fire exits were padlocked, the chief said, and that there were “locks everywhere” in the building.
Illinois’ Department of Human Services is also seeking to determine who’s responsible. The agency released a statement Friday saying it does not license or certify the facility, nor does it provide The Mothers House with any funding.
“However, we have reached out to local hospitals and mental health providers to help them assess the needs of the residents of this facility and will do everything in our power to help them find safe housing,” the statement read. “IDHS is looking into the organization’s parent company to understand how they are receiving funding.”
Burge said multiple agencies, including the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, were assisting in what he called an “ongoing investigation.”
“We’re still uncovering stuff as we’re going along,” Burge said of subsequent searches of the building.
He said patients reported that a lack of staff oversight during the overnight hours was a “normal thing.”
“What we have here is a travesty,” Burge said, adding, “I doubt very seriously” that patients were properly cared for.
The facility also lacked hot water, and cellphone video apparently taken inside showed bedbugs crawling on walls and other surfaces.
“We’ve gotten numerous complaints from the residents in reference to not getting their medication,” Burge said.
The Mothers House website did not address the incident but gave the following description of what appears to be its nonprofit parent company: "Value Care Community Service (VCC) is an innovative, community-based behavioral health and developmental disabilities services organization located in Dixmoor, IL, offering a full range of mental health services, developmental disabilities programs and Comming (sic) Soon substance abuse treatment."
Robert McCoppin is a Tribune reporter.