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Dixmoor Mental Health Facility Evacuated Over Bedbug Infestation

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An unlicensed residential mental health facility in south suburban Dixmoor was evacuated overnight, after police discovered a bedbug infestation and filthy living conditions.

Dixmoor Police Chief Ron Burge said staff at The Mother's House was nowhere to be found when officers arrived at the facility at 141st and Leavitt early Friday morning.

Police initially responded to Mother's House because of complaints there was no hot water. Clients also reported they were locked inside with no staff.

Investigators confirmed they couldn't find anyone who worked at the facility when they arrived. Burge said, not only were disabled patients left unattended, they also were left living in deplorable conditions.

"There were bedbugs on the walls, on the floors, mattresses on the floor," he said.

Burge said the infestation was so severe it took several hours to evacuate the 30 men inside. Paramedics could use only two ambulances to transport the men to hospitals, and had to wash and fumigate the ambulance after each trip, to make sure they could contain the infestation.

"Right now the clients, residents are receiving medical treatment. We haven't been able to locate anybody that runs the facility. We've attempted to use our emergency contact numbers. No one's been contacted, but when we contact somebody, we will do an investigation," Burge said.

Friday morning, Burge said five women also had been taken out of the facility, after officers returned to to do a "more thorough search" of the building.

Angie Britch said her son, Bailey, was one of the men taken to the hospital after police confirmed the bedbug infestation. She said her son told her officers arrived just after midnight, and started taking pictures and asking questions.

Officers recorded cell phone video inside the facility during their first visit on Friday. The video shows garbage strewn around; bedbugs crawling on walls, mattresses, and the floor; and other filthy conditions. During their later search, police also found fire exits that had been padlocked, and another section of the building in disarray.

Britch said she reported unsanitary conditions at Mother's House weeks ago.

Burge said it wasn't the first time police received a call from Mother's House.

"We've gotten numerous complaints from the residents in reference to not getting their medication," he said.

In January, Burge sent the facility a cease and desist letter, after determining the facility was operating in violation of village ordinances. The letter warned Mother's Place it could face fines of up to $200 per day for further code violations.

In a statement Friday morning, the building's landlord, ART Group LLC, said Mother's House is one of three tenants there, and the others have not had any problems.

"ART Group advised Mother's House to resolve the issues to come into compliance with Village regulations. We were assured that the matter was in the process of being rectified," attorney Michael Robins said in an email. "We will also work with the Village to assure that all areas of the building remain free from any issues. To that end, we have a reputable organization that specializes in bed bug detection and elimination services coming out this morning with multiple teams to diagnose and service all indicated areas of the building."

Burge said he wants to arrest whoever runs the residential mental health center for violating the cease and desist order. He said he is working with the Cook County State's Attorney's office to file criminal charges.

Another tenant of the building, Value Care Centers, a non-residential day center providing psychological rehabilitation services, said they have not had any problems with bedbugs or hot water.

"However, as a result of the reports, we will be suspending services and conducting our own inspection this morning," Value Care said in a statement.

Police returned to the building later Friday morning to find out if anyone else was still inside.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said The Mothers House is not a licensed mental health care facility, and the state was not aware it was operating. The department has launched an investigation into what types of services the facility offered, and which state agency should regulate it.

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