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Care workers leave disabled man at Ill. truck stop

ALORTON – A state agency is investigating after two workers from a southwestern Illinois nursing home left a wheelchair-bound man at a truck stop without medication or ID after he refused to submit to a mandatory background check.

Thomas Hearty, 56, was driven to the Denny’s restaurant at a Flying J truck stop in Alorton, 20 miles from Lebanon Care Center, according to a report in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Authorities said Hearty, who has a history of diabetes and has suffered a series of strokes, refused to undergo a criminal background check mandated by state law.

“This matter is receiving our full and immediate attention,” said Sabrina Miller, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Alorton police notified the state after finding Hearty sitting in his wheelchair outside the restaurant with his clothes in two clear, plastic bags.

“They just dumped him on the side of the road – no medication, no ID, no nothing,” said Alorton Deputy Police Chief Gerald Crenshaw. “This is not a place for him, and someone should have recognized this is not a place for him.”

Crenshaw said he called the Lebanon Care Center and asked them to come back for Hearty, but the center’s administrator, Deborah Cutright, hung up on him. Cutright later called Crenshaw to say they had reconsidered, but Crenshaw said he no longer trusted the center to care for Hearty.

Officials with the company that owns the nursing home say they did nothing wrong and simply took the man where he asked to go after he had to leave the facility.

“We are not a prison. We cannot hold anyone against their will. He was left where he wanted to go,” said Greg Wilson, vice president of operations for Peoria-based Petersen Health Care, which operates the 90-bed facility in Lebanon.

“There is nothing in state law that precludes them from doing what they did,” she said.

The newspaper says the man has a 1992 conviction for a felony burglary charge.

Crenshaw said an ambulance took Hearty to a Belleville hospital, but he was later released. Miller said Hearty was returned to the nursing home.

The nursing home confirmed Hearty had returned but said he was declining to speak with reporters.

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