FAQs of Reporting Abuse/Neglect of People with Disabilities

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

What Happens During an Investigation?

Caution: DO NOT use e-mail to report abuse and neglect. It delays the investigation, and confidentiality cannot be ensured.

It is important that everyone takes abuse and neglect of people with disabilities seriously, that everyone is able to recognize it when it happens, and that everyone knows what to do next. Abuse and neglect should be reported to the OIG Hotline: 1-800-368-1463 (within Illinois).

What are Abuse and Neglect of People with Disabilities?

For facility and community agency cases (Rule 50):

"Abuse" means any physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, or financial exploitation (see Rule 50 for the full definition of each of those types).

"Neglect" means an employee's, agency's, or facility's failure to provide adequate medical care, personal care, or maintenance, and that, as a consequence, causes an individual pain, injury or emotional distress, results in either an individual's maladaptive behavior or the deterioration of an individual's physical condition or mental condition, or places an individual's health or safety at substantial risk of possible injury, harm, or death.

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When Should I Call the Hotline?

You should call the Hotline whenever you believe that an individual with disabilities has been abused or neglected. Some examples include:

  • if you see an employee hitting a person with disabilities;
  • if you see an injury on a person with disabilities' body that does not appear to have been caused by an accident;
  • if a person with disabilities tells you that he or she has been harmed by a care giver; or
  • if a person with disabilities appears to be undernourished, dressed inappropriately for the weather or abandoned by staff at a program he or she attends or where he or she lives.

These are a few examples of when you should call the hotline. Use good judgment and call the hotline whenever you think a person with disabilities has been abused or neglected.

Some situations do not require calling the Hotline. Call only when you think a person with disabilities has been or will be harmed by someone, or has a serious injury. Some examples of when you should not call the Hotline include:

  • When a person with disabilities is the one causing the problem that concerns you - you may want to call law enforcement or the person's treatment program.
  • When a emergency situtation arises that does not involve abuse or neglect - you should consider calling law enforcement.
  • When a problem in a residential program is evident, but the person with disabilities has not been abused and is not at risk of abuse. In some cases you may wish to call DHS at 1-800-843-6154 (1-800-447-6404 TTY), or talk to staff at the program in question.

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Who Do I Call?

IF the abuse/neglect is so severe that there is a risk of serious injury or death, call 911 or your local police.

THEN decide whether the abuse/neglect target is a person with disabilities and:

IF the person is enrolled in a program or lives in a setting funded, licensed or certified by DHS, call the OIG HOTLINE: 1-800-368-1463.


IF the person with disabilities is enrolled in a program or lives in a setting funded, licensed or certified by DPH (e.g. a nursing home), and the abuse/neglect occurs when service is being provided, call the DPH Nursing Home Hotline: 1-800-252-2893.


IF abuse/neglect target is a child or adolescent under age 18, call the DCFS HOTLINE: 1-800-252-2873


IF the abuse/neglect target is an adult age 60 or older who does not live in a nursing home, or lives in a private home, call DOA's Senior Helpline: 1-800-252-8966 after regular business hours.

To find our how to report other problems, look at Other Complaints.

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What Should I Report?

Hotline staff are investigators with special training in determining what constitutes abuse and neglect of people with disabilities under Illinois law. Details are important. Ideally, you should be able to tell the Hotline investigator:

  • the abused/neglected person's name or description;
  • the nature of the suspected abuse or neglect and when and where it occurred, including the names and address of the mental health or developmental program in which the adult participates;
  • the names or descriptions of suspected perpetrators; and
  • any other information you think may help, including the names of witnesses and how to contact them.

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What Happens When I Call the Hotline?

When you call the hotline between 8:30 am and 4:45 pm, Monday through Friday, a hotline investigator will answer. After hours (and occasionally during regular business hours, such as when call volume is high), an operator will answer and take your name and number and a brief report. When you give your name and number for this purpose, it will be used only for calling you back and will not be used in reports of the investigation, unless you authorize the use of your name. Emergency calls are returned immediately and other calls are returned the next business morning.

The investigator will listen to what you wish to report. He or she will ask you questions designed to determine whether your call meets the criteria for an abuse or neglect investigation or is best handled in some other way. If you are calling about something that OIG does not investigate, the investigator will help you find the person or service you need. If a formal report is taken, an investigation will begin - immediately if an individual is at imminent risk of harm.

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How Am I Protected?

OIG will not give your name to the person you identify as the abuser or to anyone else unless you authorize us to identify you as the complainant or we are ordered to do so by a judge. However, this protection may not be extended to persons who knowingly make misleading reports that are intended to harass or compromise a community agency or facility.

Further, retaliation by anyone at the agency or facility is against the law.  The Act governing Rule 50 cases declares it a statutory violation for any employee or administrator to take retaliatory action against an employee who acts in good faith in reporting as required.

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Should I Call the Police?

You should always consider calling the police - especially in emergencies where life or safety is at risk, for crimes or when someone is threatened with harm. To ensure an investigation by OIG, you must also call OIG's Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-368-1463.

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Who are Required Reporters?

Some people are required to report abuse and neglect under Illinois Administrative Rule 50. Required reporters include all employees of the Department of Human Services (DHS) and all employees of agencies and programs that receive funding from or are regulated by DHS. All owners, operators, contractors, subcontractors and volunteers are also required reporters.

A required reporter's failure to report suspected abuse or neglect may lead to discipline.

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How Should Required Reporters make Reports?

Whenever possible, follow the reporting procedures set out by your agency or facility. When you believe that using that procedure may jeopardize your report, or place you at some risk, you should call the Hotline directly.

Under Administrative Rule 50, abuse and neglect must be reported to OIG within four hours of discovery by the facility or agency.

Serious injuries are no longer reported to OIG, unless there is an allegation or suspicion of abuse or neglect.

Under Administrative Rule 50, a death must be reported to OIG within 24 hours of discovery by the facility or agency.  Again, if there is an allegation or suspicion of abuse or neglect, the death must be reported within four hours of discovery.

More detailed information about reporting criteria and timelines are available in Section 50.20 of Administrative Rule 50.

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