Statement of Heidi Dalenberg
An article by Pro Publica (co-published with The Atlantic) offers a chilling, but accurate, description of the terrible plight of Illinois youth admitted for psychiatric hospitalization, and then inexcusably are left to languish for weeks, if not months, by Illinois’ DCFS. The ACLU, which represents these youth, repeatedly has brought this problem to the attention of DCFS, both in our discussions with the Department and in our court filings in the BH Consent Decree, where we have asked the Court to enforce the Department’s legal obligations to provide appropriate placements, medical and psychiatric care, and education for all youth in the Department’s custody, regardless of the complexity of their needs.
Inexcusably, DCFS offers little helpful information or action in the way of a response. The agency points to the fact that these youth have complex needs, and says that the desire for speed in securing a youth’s discharge must be balanced against the need to find an appropriate post-hospitalization placement. This ignores the reality that it is the Department’s legal obligation to address this problem, not to excuse the harm it is inflicting on these youth because it is hard to care for them.
The Department has not taken the time or energy needed to study why unnecessarily extended hospitalizations are on the rise, to assess what concrete placement resources it needs to build in Illinois to help these youth, or to effectively execute a plan to develop those resources. As counsel for the plaintiff class in B.H. v. Walker, we will continue to use every means available to us under the B.H. Consent Decree to enforce the Department’s legal obligations.