For too long, Illinois has relied on nursing homes to house psychiatric patients who might be better served in smaller, community-based settings.
That will likely start to change under a landmark class-action lawsuit settlement expected to be filed Monday.
If it's approved by a judge, the settlement would require Illinois to give thousands of psychiatric patients the option to move from nursing homes designated as "institutions for mental disease" to community-based housing, where they would have access to support services.
The agreement is being praised by advocates for the mentally ill who have long argued that relegating psychiatric patients to nursing homes violates laws protecting people with disabilities.
Supportive housing, when it's done the right way, allows mentally-ill people to live independently while still getting the help they need.
Switching about 4,500 patients into supportive housing over the next five years could also be a cost saver for the state, since Medicaid doesn't reimburse for care provided in IMDs.
Given the volatile mix of mentally ill, elderly and disabled people living in the state's nursing homes, big changes like the ones outlined in the proposed settlement are long overdue.
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