Sunday, August 14, 2011
Florida Lawmaker Criticizes Assisted-Living Facility Owners
Calling Florida’s lax oversight of assisted living facilities “deadly,” one of the state’s top lawmakers for social issues vowed this summer to pass sweeping reforms of an industry that has sometimes left frail elders and disabled people in filth and peril.
But as a state task force prepares to meet for the first time Monday to develop a blueprint for reform, some advocates for the elderly have suggested the effort may be derailed before it ever begins by a familiar foe: the power of industry groups and their ties to lawmakers and regulators.
“Reaching out to the industry and regulators alone is what put our state in the assisted living mess it is in today,” Brian Lee, a former state long-term-care ombudsman and current head of a Tallahassee-based advocacy group, wrote in a recent letter to a top state lawmaker. “It is due time for this industry to become more transparent and wholly accountable.”
The twin efforts followed a three-part series in The Miami Herald that showed state regulators repeatedly caught homes breaking the law — including sometimes deadly abuse and neglect of frail elders — but failed to shut down or even seriously punish the worst offenders. The newspaper found that administrators with the state Agency for Health Care Administration could have shut down 70 homes in 2008 and 2009 for such violations as abuse and neglect leading to death, but closed just seven homes.
In the days after the series ran, two state lawmakers — Republican Ronda Storms of Valrico, who chairs the Senate’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, and Democrat Nan Rich of Weston,
who serves on the committee — vowed to seek meaningful reforms of the industry as part of a summer-long interim project in their Senate committee. “It’s offensive to basic human dignity and care for vulnerable populations,” Storms told The Herald. “There’s no question.”
But before Storms could hold a single hearing, Senate President Mike Haridopolos assigned the project instead to Republican Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah, a healthcare consultant with deep ties to the industry. His Senate district contains one of the largest concentrations of ALFs in the state, including several with woeful regulatory histories.
Full Article and Source:
Task Force to Seek Reform of ALF Facilities