The Illinois Department of Public Health is investigating a rash of heroin overdoses at Aperion Care Forest Park rehabilitation and memory care facility.
Seven overdoses involving the use of Narcan and CPR were reported between July 7 and Sept. 6, according to a recent Forest Park police report.
Forest Park police chief Ken Gross told the Review that to the best of his knowledge, none of those overdoses resulted in deaths.
The report showed that the nursing home never filed police reports. Instead, a former employee tipped off IDPH Oct. 21 about the overdoses, when the agency opened its investigation. IDPH then reported the incidents to police Oct. 27.
An investigator reported to police that on her first day at Aperion, she “concluded the facility has an overdosing problem that needs to be addressed and solved,” the report showed.
It is not clear which drugs the patients used. It is believed the drug was heroin, but cocaine and other controlled substance were reported in the investigation to have been found on the premises in the past.
Aperion Care representatives didn’t respond to the request for comment by deadline.
IDPH spokesperson Mike Claffey said that he couldn’t confirm whether the investigation was still ongoing, and declined to comment further.
According to the police report, a pair of department employees went in to the skilled nursing facility several times between Oct. 21 and 24 to investigate the incidents by interviewing employees and patients, and by reviewing records.
They discovered that while an Aperion employee called ambulances for the overdose patients, he didn’t inform the Forest Park Police Department. The employee reported he also found controlled substances in the past, including cocaine and heroin, but he didn’t report them to police, instead testing them using strips he purchased and flushing them down the toilet. It is not clear whether he did that in these cases.
An IDPH investigator told police that she had been working with the organization and had never experienced “a situation with an employee confiscating and testing the drugs himself, without police being notified.”
According to police, on Oct. 27, IDPH employees spoke to Aperion’s vice president of operations for the region that includes the Chicago area, who acknowledged that the police should have been contacted when the first overdose happened, and that the employee shouldn’t have handled it.
The police report said that IDPH would continue to monitor the facility in the future, and that they contacted the police to make them aware of the situation.
Lincolnwood-based Aperion Care has owned the facility since 2007. It has 232 beds, all of which are certified to be used by Medicaid or Medicare patients. The previous owner, Pavilion Forest Park, racked up thousands of dollars in fines, and issues have persisted under new owners.
According to ProPublica’s compilation of Medicaid complaints, inspection reports from Jan. 1, 2022 to Aug. 11, 2023 showed that the regulatory agency cited the nursing home for 92 deficiencies. A deficiency is a failure to meet any care requirement and can range in scope and size.
In all, it was fined $651,000 and its Medicaid payments were suspended five times. Medicaid has rated it two out of five stars, with health inspection results and staffing shortages bringing down the rating.
The facility has been on IDPH’s radar as well. It has been flagged for violations several times over the past three years. Most recently, last winter, it was fined a total of $32,700 for multiple safety issues.