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You Paid For It: Longer, Unnecessary Stays At Psychiatric Hospitals For Children

CHICAGO (CBS) --  CBS 2 is keeping an eye on your tax dollars.

There are thousands of nights kids are languishing in Illinois psychiatric hospitals, in a situation that is damaging to them.

CBS 2's Chris Tye reported Thursday that it is costly because you paid for it.

"There's not a whole lot that says to a child more powerfully 'you don't matter.'" said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert.

Foster kids' visits to psych hospitals are supposed to last a few days, 14 days max.

They stay at places locked up indoors all day; no electronics, no schooling, no sports and minimal family, friends or contact with others.

But when it's time to leave, there's no where to go.

With a shortage of specialized foster homes and group homes in Illinois, they're staying on average 39 days, 43 days and this year 57 days beyond when they should be released from the psych hospital.

Experts said staying that long in facilities that isolating can create new problems for vulnerable youth, and creates skyrocketing costs for Illinois taxpayers footing the bill.

"They should be hugely outraged, this is a waste of your money," said Golbert.

Average home care for kids in custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services costs the state, on the high end, $224 per night.

Psychiatric hospital stays cost $350 per night. It's $126 more per night, per child, for hospitalization that's no longer required.

How many nights does this happen?

From 2015 thru 2017 there were 27,000 unnecessary nights in Illinois psych hospitals, costing tax payers a total of $3.4 million dollars.

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"It adds up to 27,000 thousand days, which is 73 years of children's lives. That's 73 years of children's lives locked up in a children's psychiatric hospital when they don't need to be there," Golbert said.

CBS 2 reached out to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that cares for these kids as to why it's happening.

The agency did not get back to CBS 2.

Four years ago, DCFS got rid of 500 beds with plans for added specialized foster homes.

Those homes were never built.

And these psych hospital overstays continue to skyrocket.


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