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Report Slams Conditions At West Side Psychiatric Hospital

Hartgrove Hospital

Hartgrove Hospital, a psychiatric facility on the city’s West Side, is the subject of a scathing new report by UIC researchers. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 09/28/11 – 5:58 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s the worst kind of crime – abuse against mentally ill children – and it’s happening at the very place they turn for help: a psychiatric hospital.

CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez has more on the shocking findings in a new report about Hartgrove Hospital on the West Side.

The report reveals scores of sex assaults and physical attacks occurring at a place charged with caring for some of our most vulnerable and a place where families can only drop by with an appointment.

Conditions behind the closed doors at Hartgrove Hospital were described as so dangerous that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services stopped sending patients there.

The decision came last June, after a preview of a report officially released on Wednesday, in which experts at the University of Illinois described chaos, danger and about 100 violent incidents in the span of one six-month period.

“There were assaults of a sexual nature. There were physical injuries and – just as importantly – many, many kids who simply weren’t getting the treatment that the state paid for them to get,” DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said.

Most disturbing to Marlowe was that “our reviewer found deliberate and chronic understaffing in addition to a pattern of inadequate care.”

It was a recipe for disaster at a psychiatric facility like Hartgrove, which treats children, teens and adults.

In a statement, Hartgrove Hospital said, “Hartgrove is proud of its track record that spans more than 50 years. The hospital has many more success stories to its credit than the negative ones highlighted in the report.”

The hospital said it’s working with DCFS to remedy the situation so that wards of the state can return.

Marlowe said Hartgrove’s parent company, United Health Services owns 70 percent of all psychiatric facilities in Illinois – 29 of them in total – so it’s especially important to send a message.

“We won’t tolerate people who place profit above a vulnerable child’s safety,” Marlowe said.

So could it be shut down?

While state agencies can monitor what goes on at Hartgrove, Marlowe said that, due to Medicaid funding, the federal government has the real authority over such hospitals.

But Hartgrove said it plans to embrace the appropriate recommendations to improve the quality of care.