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Florida’s Assisted Living Facilities Investigated

Sunday’s St Petersburg Times carried an article about the atrocious conditions existing in some Assisted Living Facilities in the state of Florida. Apparently there are way too few protections for people residing in such facilities now. This article bore the striking headline Oversight lacking for Florida assisted living facilities.

Created more than a quarter-century ago, ALFs were established in landmark legislation to provide shelter and sweeping protections to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens: the elderly and mentally ill.

Many tragic examples are mentioned in this article as having resulted from this lack of oversight. Among those incidents mentioned a women “with mental illness” drowned in a pond, an Alzheimer’s patient was torn apart by an alligator, a woman died after 6 hours in restraints, and a man, also described as having a “mental illness”, died as a result of being left in scalding bathwater.

A Miami Herald investigation into shoddy conditions existing at these AFLs has laid the blame for much of this neglect squarely at the feet of the Agency for Health Care Administration.

The Miami Herald found that the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees the state’s 2,850 assisted-living facilities, has failed to monitor shoddy operators, investigate dangerous practices and shut down the worst offenders.

Many of the ways in which the state has failed to protect residents of ALF’s were mentioned in this article. Once a month, residents are reported to have died from abuse and neglect while would be care takers forged documents and concealed evidence. Homes routinely use restraints and drugs, and are seldom punished. Regulators shut down 70 houses in the last 2 years for serious violations, but only 7 houses were closed for good in that period of time. While 550 ALFs opened up in 5 years, the state dropped critical inspections by 33 % allowing the worst violators to slip past them. In a few words, the AHCA simply isn’t doing its job.

Despite the legislation designed to protect people in assisted living, these protections just aren’t being enforced the way they should be enforced.

Instead of inspecting ALFs once a year like most large states — including Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Illinois — Florida cut inspections to just once every two years.

The Miami Herald deserves much credit and praise for this investigation that it has been conducting. Obviously something must be done. Let’s hope concerned citizens and Florida legislators are beginning to get the message.