Lack of Reform Plagues Downstate Mental Health Center

Wide-spread abuse and neglect have been plaguing a southern Illinois state-run mental health and developmental center for years. A series of recent investigative news pieces, highlighting these systemic issues, found that little has been done to reform the facility.


The Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna, Illinois, which is a 270-bed facility serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental illnesses, has had at least 26 employees arrested on felony charges over the last ten years. And since 2019, more than a dozen have had charges filed against them, including three administrators.


The arrests and charges stem from a range of mistreatment and accusations of whipping, choking, punching, and sexually assaulting residents. Most recently in 2022, an employee was charged for allegedly grabbing a nonverbal patient with the mental capacity of a 15-month-old by the neck and punching him in the back of the head. This case is still pending.

After years of accusations, charges, and arrests, the Illinois Department of Human Services, which is charged with overseeing the facility, failed to seriously address the poor conditions. It wasn’t until just a few months ago that a plan was unveiled to begin taking steps to reform the facility. Yet, many of those reforms have yet to be implemented.