A federal investigation, prompted by reports from the Chicago Tribune and complaints from a Chicago alderman, is underway at the North Side nursing home, Somerset Place.

Federal officials declined to comment on the probe or what specifically investigators are targeting at the facility. But state Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said federal authorities asked state officials to postpone their own enforcement actions against Somerset until the federal probe is complete.

"The facility has been a concern to the state and the feds," Arnold said.

From April 2008 to July 2009, records show, Chicago police investigated 15 alleged assaults or batteries inside Somerset, as well as five reported cases of criminal sexual assault and another five reports of narcotics possession. State public health authorities last year cited the home for failing to monitor and treat mentally ill patients, and state and federal agencies have levied more than $80,000 in fines for alleged safety infractions, Arnold has said.

The ACLU of Illinois continues to work extensively to protect the rights of patients at Somerset Place.

"Somerset, with about 400 beds, is one of the largest of the institutions housing our clients in the Williams case," said ACLU of Illinois Assistant Legal Director and Director of the Institutionalized Persons and Children Project, Ben Wolf.
"We're trying in that litigation to give them the opportunity to live in smaller community settings and move out of large nursing homes like Somerset that often provide inadequate care and services."

Williams v. Quinn, et al: The ACLU of Illinois filed suit on behalf of the mentally ill Illinois residents who are currently living in large-scale institutional housing in conditions that range from cold and institutional to filthy and dangerous. Our suit argues that these residents could be better served for the same or less expense in small, community-based settings.