Gov. Rick Scott's administration has taken another positive step to ensure the safety of the elderly and disabled in Florida's assisted living facilities. The Agency for Health Care Administration has created an impressive working group to recommend improvements in regulating the facilities following a Miami Herald investigation that exposed poor treatment of residents and unacceptable living conditions over years of lax oversight. The group has the potential to make a real contribution toward the creation of more rigorous monitoring and standards that would lead to long-term improvements.
Unlike so many other study commissions in government, this advisory group promises to be no lapdog. The chairman is Larry Polivka, director and scholar in resident at the Claude Pepper Foundation, who has a long record of distinguished service inside and outside government. Another member, state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, has been an outspoken advocate for residents of such facilities and their families. Among the issues the group should consider: more aggressive regulatory enforcement and more vigorous state inspections.
Scott inherited this intolerable situation. The Herald investigation in May revealed that 70 people died in these facilities over the past eight years due to actions — or inaction — by their caretakers. Since then, the AHCA has imposed fines and sanctions on several dozen of the worst abusers. The new work group signals that Scott intends to ensure that permanent reforms are in place to reverse years of neglect. That would be a lasting contribution to the quality of life for some of Florida's most vulnerable residents.