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We Stick With Our Stories Until We See Results

Think we’re done reporting on ticket debt, research violations at the University of Illinois at Chicago or issues at Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital? Think again.

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You know how in “The Godfather, Part III,” the aging Michael Corleone describes Mafia life: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”? The journalism we do at ProPublica Illinois is like that, too.

Stories never really end. We publish a story and it leads to impact: a government, company or other organization taking action in response to our reporting. Or the story prompts more sources to come forward to suggest new avenues for investigation. Those avenues result in additional stories.

We stick with stories “as long as it takes to hold power to account.” It’s what we do.

So, today, I’d like to highlight a few examples from our reporters of stories we’re continuing to update, and where we’re at now:

Melissa Sanchez: Even though I’ve moved on to another project, I continue to monitor issues related to our “Driven Into Debt” series. I’m tracking the progress of legislation to end driver’s license suspensions tied to debt from unpaid parking tickets; we previously reported on how these suspensions disproportionately affect black motorists from Chicago and its suburbs. The legislation passed the state Senate but didn’t get called for a vote during a critical House committee meeting this week, making its odds of passage this year very slim. Separately, I’m also waiting to see what recommendations come out of a citywide task force studying how to make municipal fines and fees less burdensome for the poor. Those should be coming out any day now.

Duaa Eldeib: I continue to monitor developments at Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital while working on new investigations. In October, I reported that the hospital was at risk of losing key federal funding following allegations of sexual assault and physical abuse of children, including some who were cleared for release but remained at the hospital because state child welfare officials did not find them more appropriate homes. A recent inspection by the Illinois Department of Public Health found additional deficiencies. This week, federal officials said in court documents that they plan to terminate the hospital’s Medicare funding because “serious risks to patients continue to exist.” The hospital, which submitted a plan of correction, is expected to file its response in court next month.

Jodi Cohen: I’m continuing to keep readers updated on developments related to a former University of Illinois at Chicago child psychiatrist who violated research protocols and put vulnerable children with bipolar disorder at risk. UIC refused to provide many records under the Freedom of Information Act, and, after we appealed, the Illinois attorney general ruled this year that those records should be public. The records showed that UIC acknowledged to federal officials that it had missed several warning signs that Dr. Mani Pavuluri’s clinical trial on lithium had gone off track, eventually requiring the university to return $3.1 million in grant funds to the federal government. We are still fighting for other documents the university refused to provide, including research protocols, documents submitted to the university’s research oversight panel and records created as part of investigating and correcting issues related to Pavuluri’s work and university oversight, and are waiting for a ruling from the attorney general’s office. If we get more records, and they shed more light on the issues, we will tell you about it. We are also monitoring ongoing investigations and will let you know if Pavuluri faces discipline from the state medical licensing board or from an ongoing federal research oversight investigation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Have something to tell us about any of these investigations? Just click on the reporter’s name and send them an email.

On the Table lunch and discussion on May 14: Join ProPublica Illinois for lunch and a small group discussion about fines, fees and the affordability of living in Chicago. This gathering is part of the On The Table day of citywide conversations about local issues, an initiative of The Chicago Community Trust. Seating is limited. RSVP here.

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