ALF policy needs mass overhaul
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012
Updated: Sunday, July 29, 2012 14:07
Last week, the Assisted Living Workgroup convened for the second time this year to discuss policy reform that would affect Florida’s assisted living facilities. Gov. Rick Scott compiled the task force last year after several cases of egregious abuse and neglect were uncovered. The 14-member group is composed of facility owners, lawmakers and elder advocates and exists to improve policies and conditions regarding the disabled and elderly in Florida ALFs.
Unfortunately, the group tabled or rejected nearly every motion put forward, even common-sense proposals such as one that would have banned administrators who had previously lost a license due to egregious cases of neglect, abuse or death. It’s no surprise, however, when those who profit monetarily from the facilities are allowed to sit on this task force and help construct “policy decisions.” In the past three years, ALF owner Larry Sherberg has been served with a dozen violations and a $1,000 fine surrounding a severe case of neglect in Hollywood, Fla. Sherberg’s presence on the legislative board of the Florida Assisted Living Association as well as Scott’s task force is indicative of the group’s futile existence.
The elderly and disabled in these homes comprise a demographic that has been largely overlooked by policy legislation for far too long, especially with Scott’s crusade against Medicaid benefits for the state as of late.
“When are people going to wake up and realize that people are dying in these places? What’s it going to take?” Bentley Lipscomb, former secretary for the Department of Elder Affairs, asked in a task force meeting. “Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t expect much out of any of this,” he added in last week’s meeting.
Not only do Florida’s facilities have a deplorable record of neglect, but the Agency for Health Care Administration also failed to hold homes responsible. According to The Miami Herald, cases of substantial neglect were found in more than 70 homes with an equal number of deaths, yet only seven were shut down. These are people’s parents, people’s grandmothers and people’s grandfathers who often do not have the physical or mental capacity to report abuse or neglect once it has occurred. They have no say in their stay at a facility, and the fact that these homes have gone without thorough inspection or that inspections have failed to result in swift punishment and removal of guilty facility administration is worthy of condemnation.
Scott may have had the right intentions, but unless an overhaul within the group itself is on the table to ensure reform and productivity on the matter, the situation promises a bleak future.