Florida Legislature Fails to Address Assisted Living Facility Neglect Despite Recommendations from the Governor's ALF Task Force
In response to a growing number reports of assisted living facility abuseand the Miami Herald's series on ALF neglect, Florida governor Rick Scott charged a task force with finding solutions to the problems plaguing these facilities. Made up of elder care advocates, legislators, and industry officials, the task force met several times over the course of the second half of 2011 to discuss improvements to facility requirements and regulation enforcement, as well as penalties for infractions.According to the Miami Herald, during the task force's last meeting in November of last year, the panel voted to seek reform from the Legislature to enforce harsh penalties on homes that fail to protect their residents against abuse. These penalties would include preventing homes from taking new residents if the facility had a record of serious offenses and punishments for facilities that retaliate against residents for reporting concerns.The group came to a consensus on increasing training requirements and various other improvements, but could not agree on other options including the use of granny cams to monitor patient rooms and increased Agency for Health Care Administration inspections of facilities. Several members of the panel expressed concern that the ALF owners who were also on the task force were trying to reduce facility oversight rather than increasing it.Even with the task force's recommendations, Florida lawmakers have yet to address the assisted living facility neglect plaguing the state's facilities. The Jacksonville Business Journal reports a bill that would have increased oversight “bounced between the House and Senate” before the Congressional session closed, but lawmakers could not reach an agreement. While Senators tried to increase regulations, the House expressed concern that additional requirements might destroy “the vital ALF industry.” The Florida Assisted Living Association backed the House's approach.To date, Florida lawmakers have failed to address the problems of assisted living facility neglect and ALF abuse. This may be linked in part to industry pressure. Ultimately, some of Florida's most vulnerable residents, those who rely on assisted living facilities, are no more protected than they were. The failure to act has left them still vulnerable to potential atrocious conditions and a lack of proper care.