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  • Megann Horstead

Human Rights Authority aims to help when rights of disabled are violated


Caring for a child or adult with developmental disabilities or mental health problems can be a daunting task. And when businesses or organizations skirt laws designed to protect the rights of people with disabilities, things get harder still.


That’s where the South Suburban Regional Human Rights Authority hopes to fill a void.


Established in July 2018, the panel, part of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, is one of nine covering the state.


The South Suburban Regional Human Rights Authority is comprised of nine appointed volunteers who investigate alleged violations of laws, regulations and other mandates that protect the rights of people with disabilities.


At a recent meeting, they reviewed a complaint alleging a care provider wouldn’t assist with a person’s discharge and transfer to a supportive living residence.


The panel voted to accept the complaint as a case to investigate further.


With each case, the Human Rights Authority completes a written report of its findings, and when it finds a violation, members issue recommendations on how to right the situation, said Geraldine Boatman, the South Suburban Region coordinator.


“The HRA is not an enforcement agency,” she said, noting the group “focuses on negotiation and not litigation.” Though if negotiations fail, the group will “refer a service provider to its licensing agency,” she said.


Boatman said the group’s initial goal is to collect information from both sides.


If there’s a case involving a certain hospital, for example, the hospital could choose to send a representative to the meeting to talk about the complaint, Boatman said.


“We do that in closed session,” she said. “We allow the provider representative to present information about the complaint. We also will schedule a site visit to go out and talk to the staff about the complaint.”


The panel strives to ensure complainants’ names are kept confidential, she said.


The South Suburban Regional Human Rights Authority had 16 cases active when the agency’s fiscal year started on July 1, 2018, officials said. The regional Human Rights Authority members opened 15 new cases and handled 31 cases from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, officials said.


“Most of the cases involved multiple rights issues such as medication, discharge/transfer and inadequate treatment,” Boatman said.

The regional Human Rights Authority closed 12 cases from July 2018 through June 30, 2019, officials said.


Boatman said the work of the Human Rights Authority is made possible by volunteers.


The next meeting of the South Suburban Regional Human Rights Authority is Feb. 13.


To report violations to the rights of a person with disabilities, contact the Human Rights Authority’s regional coordinator at 708-228-7500.


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