We need the Mental Health Center..... Howe Developmental Center expected to close, union officials say -- chicagotribune.com

State officials are expected to announce Friday plans to close the beleaguered Howe Developmental Center for disabled adults in Tinley Park and the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, union officials and disabled-care advocates said.

The Illinois Department of Human Services, which oversees 18 disabled-care and mental health centers around the state, could not be reached for comment. A news conference is scheduled for noon at Village Hall in Tinley Park, union officials said.

Disabled-care advocates have long criticized Howe for substandard care and patient neglect, factors they say led to at least 21 patient deaths in 2005. Last year, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Howe after similar allegations came to light.

In March 2007, the federal government rescinded Howe's Medicaid certification, stripping the center of nearly $30 million in funding. A 93-page report by the Illinois Department of Human Services that month confirmed many of the advocacy groups' findings.

But rather than close a 324-patient facility that employs about 750 people, the state chose to offset the federal cuts and now contributes about $60 million a year to keep it open.

If the Governor would wake up about Health Care......