Former patient sues Elgin mental health facility worker after alleged romantic relationship

A former patient who was treated at a state-run mental health facility in Elgin is suing an employee who she says groomed her until she had a sexual relationship with him.

Jennifer Coleman visited the Elgin Mental Health Center to help manage bi-polar disorder, multiple personalities, suicidal thoughts and severe depression. She's now being treated at another facility, but Coleman said she's "devastated."

"I'm withdrawn. I'm disconnected with my family," she said.

A federal lawsuit filed Friday alleges that an employee at the facility started a relationship with Coleman when she was a patient from October 2018 to January this year.

"Love letters, kissing, things like that," Coleman said.

Coleman's attorney, Joe Cecala, said, "Because all these institutionalized people are considered to be disabled, they are incapable of giving consent."

The lawsuit alleges that the employee promised Coleman he would eventually help her earn a degree and get an apartment. Other promises included living together and getting married, according to the lawsuit.

But when Coleman transitioned to a different facility in January, she said the relationship turned sexual.

"I was taken advantage of in a sexually abusive way," she said.

Coleman said she feels that her depression has worsened.

"Effectively a grooming process. It's brainwashing is what it is," said S. Randolph Kretchmar, Coleman's attorney.

Coleman's lawsuit is the latest her lawyers have filed against the state-run facility. Four others are pending.

Meanwhile, Coleman's challenges only continue.

"I see my mother struggling every day, honestly to try to make sense of everything," said Lewis Parker, Coleman's son.

"I have so much rushing through my head, along with the pain. I just don't know how to put things in perspective and move on," Coleman said.

A spokeswoman for Illinois State Police said the agency "currently has an open and ongoing investigation regarding these allegations. No additional information can be shared until the investigation is concluded."

No arrests have been made, according to the spokeswoman.

"The safety and well-being of those in our care is always our top priority and we take these allegations very seriously," the Illinois Department of Human Services said.
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