I felt grateful to be included in the event and positive about our testimony.
We focused our testimony on our finding that Illinois is arguably the worst state in the country for black seniors seeking nursing home care.
Kimbriell gave the background to our investigation and identified disparities in location, quality and staffing between facilities where the majority of residents are black compared with those where most of the residents are white.
I elaborated on these disparities and talked about explanations for them that we had heard from nursing home owners and that ultimately proved to be untrue. These included the assertions that the difference were a function of the percentage of days of resident care paid for by Medicaid and that black seniors tend to enter nursing homes less healthy than their white counterparts.
Each senator seemed very engaged and asked us questions.
After our presentation, the senators heard from workers at several of the majority-black facilities, officials at the Illinois Departments of Public Health and Human Services, and academics Susan Reed of DePaul University and Ruqaiijah Yearby of the University of Buffalo Law School, among others.
Yearby said she had called both the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Attorney General’s offices, but neither could tell them who was responsible for enforcing Title VI, or civil rights, violations.
She advocated for the integration of civil rights enforcement with nursing home inspections and made the point that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights had closed no facilities for civil rights violations since the passage of the legislation in 1964.
Some of the day’s most dramatic testimony came from Lurletha Ward, a South Side resident whose sister had lived in the Renaissance at 87th Street facility. Ward detailed how her sister at times sat in her own feces for hours. She added that when she raised a concern to home officials, she was told that she could move her loved one elsewhere if she didn’t like the treatment her sister was receiving
Legislative attention to nursing homes will continue on Tuesday, November 5, with a public hearing about safety in nursing homes and resident placement.