In the last entry, I discussed Florida Governor Rick Scott’s recent decisions regarding Assisted Living Facilities or ALFs. In addition to vetoing legislation that would have helped ALF owners avoid regulation thereby potentially putting residents at risk, Gov. Scott announced plans to launch a task force to find ways to improve conditions in these facilities. I was cautiously optimistic about these efforts as the system needs changes. But now that the task force has been formed and their schedule has been set, I question whether or not this will be enough to stop the assisted living facility neglect and ALF abuse that has run rampant through Florida.
The Orlando Sentinel reported last week on the ALF task force and its schedule. Members include state Senator Ronda Storms, chairperson of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee; state Representative Matt Hudson; four ALF administrators and two members of long-term-care industry groups. Larry Polivka, executive director of the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University and former state’s assistant secretary for aging and adult services, will act as chairman of the group.
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The ALF task force is only scheduled to meet once in August, once in September and once in October before issuing a report to the 2011 Florida legislature. Mr. Polivka admitted, “We really haven’t looked at assisted living facilities from a regulatory perspective in any systematic way for many years.” This raises questions as to whether or not the task force will be able to come up with real suggestions for reducing assisted living facility abuse and improving living conditions.
In addition, the makeup of this task force is concerning to many advocates including Brian Lee, Florida’s former Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Writing for the Miami Herald, Mr. Lee argued that the Governor had bowed to political pressure and his task force has become a way to placate the healthcare industry. He raised concerns that the committee is dominated by industry insiders and has very few resident advocates. Mr. Lee also expressed concern that establishing such a group is often used as a way for government officials to make it look like they are working on a problem when any solution that is presented is likely to be unusable.
Ultimately only time will tell whether or not Gov. Scott’s ALF task force will offer real solutions to the ALF neglect and assisted living facility abuse. Regardless, advocates must continue to speak out about the mistreatment of some of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens.