Florida lawmakers are now considering changes to the state’s oversight of Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs). According to The Ledger, just months after they reportedly considered stripping more regulations designed to protect against assisted living facility neglect, legislators are now considering changes that would do the opposite. These changes could include increased fines for violations, stricter requirements for ALF owners and managers, and more power for the state when it comes to shutting down facilities it deems dangerous.
The Florida Senate’s Health Regulation and Children, Families and Elder Affairs committees met last Thursday to discuss the state’s failing oversight system. The “Neglected to Death” series run in May by the Miami Herald brought to light ALF abuse, neglect and deaths that have lawmakers reconsidering their positions on ALF laws. Republican Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville broke down the basis of their discussions fairly simply, “There’s a time when you lean toward more regulation, and that’s when you have problems that affect people’s lives and health.”
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After hearing from citizens who have lost loved ones to assisted living facility neglect, the senators discussed possible solutions. They agreed at least part of the problem stems from the fact that four agencies are responsible for oversight with little communication between them. Most of the lawmakers agreed the best solution would be to charge the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) with overseeing a database of all complaints and violations. AHCA would also be responsible for imposing punishments on violators. To help pay for the increased responsibilities, many senators favored increasing penalties and creating a scale of fines for repeat offenders, rather than raising licensing fees for all facilities. Whether or not these solutions will reduce assisted living facility neglect and abuse, it is good that lawmakers are taking the problem seriously.