State authorities are investigating a West Side nursing home following reports of violence that include the August beating death of a 72-year-old dementia patient, allegedly by a psychotic felon also living in the facility, records obtained by the Tribune show.
Ardyce Nauden, 62, who has a history of drug convictions and aggressive behavior, was charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a senior citizen, but the older man died a month later, and prosecutors are now reviewing whether to upgrade the charges.
The alleged beating at the Columbus Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, 901 S. Austin Blvd., is emblematic of the volatile mix at some Illinois nursing homes. More than any other state, Illinois relies on nursing facilities to house felons and younger mentally ill adults, often housing them with the elderly and disabled.
The Illinois Department of Public Health does not track the number of homicides and other reports of violence in the facilities, but Cardona's case is one of three known resident deaths investigated as potential homicides in the state during the last 18 months.
Details of the attack underscore the lack of data-sharing among police, facilities and health authorities about reports of assault and abuse.
When the Tribune last month asked the state health department for all records of assault allegations at Columbus Park during the previous 90 days, health officials initially said they had none.
But when pressed, the department this week located records on the Cardona beating and two other recent alleged batteries -- even though Chicago police reported 11 alleged batteries inside the facility during those 90 days.
On Tuesday, state health authorities opened a broad investigation to determine whether Columbus Park accurately reported incidents of patient violence and abuse, including the Nauden case. Health department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said the investigation was prompted by the Tribune's inquiries, adding that the department is inundated with facility incident reports, and "unfortunately with the staffing that we have, we're not always able to connect the dots."
Tribune reporting has "brought to light something that the department has been dealing with for a long time," she said. "It is not a perfect system."
Alleged stabbings, rapes and assaults inside state nursing homes were highlighted in a recent Tribune series that have led Gov. Pat Quinn and state lawmakers to seek legislative and policy solutions to the violence and the shoddy care of mentally ill people in some facilities.
Columbus Park employees had documented Nauden's history of "violent, aggressive behaviors," but the facility failed to protect Cardona and other residents, a state health department investigation determined.
Columbus Park spokesman Ron Nunziato denied that Nauden previously had been physically aggressive at Columbus Park and said the facility is formally challenging the state's findings that Columbus Park failed to safeguard others from Nauden.
He cautioned that some police reports about Columbus Park concern alleged batteries that did not actually result in "substantiated harm" or involved staff and not residents, and thus did not have to be reported to state health authorities.
"Columbus Park provides quality health care, (and) staff take every opportunity to ensure that residents are safe," Nunziato said. "There are sometimes incidents beyond our control."
Cardona's death, he added, "was an unfortunate, difficult situation."
Nauden has pleaded not guilty and is being held in Cermak Hospital at Cook County Jail. He could not be reached for comment.
Columbus Park is part-owned by longtime nursing home executives Bryan Barrish and Michael Giannini. They and their companies have an ownership stake or consulting role in 13 Illinois facilities that house nearly 6 percent of the felons and 10 percent of the 14,258 mentally ill nursing home patients in the state.
Located just south of the Eisenhower Expressway, the five-story home was recently given the lowest overall-quality rating of "well below average" by federal regulators.
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