All year, I've been writing about troubling developments when it comes to elderly care in this state.
Cases of neglect, abuse — even death — are on the rise. And Florida politicians are making things even worse, muzzling the watchdogs who report abuse and making it easier for profit-making facilities to skimp on care.
Many of you have expressed outrage.
Well, now the feds are getting involved.
Last week, the U.S. Administration on Aging released an investigative report that determined Florida was "non-compliant" in several elements of Florida's Long-Term Care Ombudsman program.
In layman's terms, that means Florida isn't meeting this country's basic standards for protecting and caring for elderly residents.
Elderly care and neglect isn't a partisan issue. It's a moral one.
No patient should miss medication, dine among roaches or go unwashed. Yet we've seen all of that.
Even more troubling than Florida's existing problems is that some want to make things worse.
The troubles that prompted federal officials to investigate started shortly after Rick Scott was sworn in as governor — and he ousted the state's elder-care ombudsman, Brian Lee.
Lee ran a program that was a success by most any measure.
It was primarily volunteers — 400 watchdogs who looked for problems at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. And the Floridians who asked for their help reported 98 percent satisfaction. (Try finding another government agency with a satisfaction rate that high.)
The program also was cheap and effective. Last year, it conducted a record-high 9,000 investigations. And because volunteers were doing most of the work, the agency operated on a shoestring budget: $2.3 million. (By comparison, Gov. Scott requested $600 million in the budget for his executive office alone.)
The agency didn't have all the powers and teeth that many people wanted. But when it got involved, it got results — for pennies on the taxpayers' dollar.
The problem for Lee was that the industries he regulated didn't care for him. He and his staff were too nosy and vigilant.
Scott's administration ousted him.
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Neglecting Elderly Isn't a Partisan Issue — It's a Moral One