After numerous inspections and citations, state officials closed the troubled Somerset Place on Monday, March 12 — but that didn’t end the ongoing saga for nearly 200 mentally ill residents who were left without a place to live.
Somerset Place, a nursing home at 5009 N. Sheridan Road that housed mentally disabled and elderly residents, was stripped of its Medicare funding on Feb. 7 by the state of Illinois after inspections showed deficiencies within the facility.
Residents were given just 30 days to find housing alternatives in other nursing homes or with family members.
“It’s been home to people for a long time,” said Anthony Zipple, CEO of Thresholds and an advocate for mentally ill. “To get adjusted to the idea of living somewhere else, to build relationships that you need to help support and sustain you in that new place, is hard to do in 30 days.”
Patients’ transitions were aided by the state of Illinois’ Public Health Department and the Illinois Department of Human Services, said Melony Arnold, communications manager for the public health department.
“It would’ve been nice to have enough time for people to transition into traditional settings,” Zipple said. “It may be that circumstances were serious enough that they [the state of Illinois] just couldn’t do it [in time].”
The Illinois Public Health Department did inspections and surveys on Somerset and cited the facility for not meeting requirements pertaining to the well-being of residents.
“After numerous inspections we found and cited Somerset for very serious deficiencies,” said Arnold.
Somerset and other nursing homes in Illinois are not good places for mentally disabled patients, Zipple said.
“In Illinois we have a policy of putting people with mental illness into institutional care even when putting them in community settings would be better and less expensive,” said Zipple. “Giving people alternatives rather than these institutional settings is the right public policy.”
Shortly after the closing of Somerset, an agreement was made to lay out a schedule for state officials to offer nearly 4,500 mentally ill nursing home residents an alternative to nursing home care and be placed into smaller settings, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Zipple said it is hard to get out of nursing homes after a prolonged stay. “The longer you’re there, the harder it is to get out,” said Zipple.
Mark Hyerman, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said Illinois wasted too much money funding places like Somerset. “The state [of Illinois] wastes a lot of money. They don’t enforce adequate law to ensure the best possible care,” said Hyerman.
Zipple applauded Illinois’ efforts to help residents find alternative housing. “They [the state of Illinois] wanted to make sure [residents] didn’t end up in situations that were dangerous for them,” said Zipple.
Arnold said public health officials educated residents on what alternatives they had before they moved.
“Our goal was to educate residents. Our biggest push was to make sure those residents had a choice in where they moved and we identified potential places where they could go,” said Arnold. “We wanted to make sure they did have a place to go.”