Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Lawmakers vow to reconsider assisted living facility reform

Published Jan. 16, 2013

TALLAHASSEE — The head of the Senate committee in charge of elder affairs vowed Tuesday to revive efforts to toughen the rules for assisted living facilities — and close the most dangerous ALFs.

As the state Legislature met Tuesday for the first time in 2013, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, said she plans to bring back legislation that sank at the end of last year's session.

At the hearing, resident advocates and ALF operators tried to sway lawmakers through passionate testimony. Elder advocates called for more oversight and tougher punishment for rogue facilities, while industry leaders warned that more regulations could put the homes out of business.

Many people in the packed committee room held copies of the Miami Herald's 2011 Neglected to Death series, distributed by Senate staff before the meeting. The Herald's two-year series revealed that at least one ALF resident dies from starvation, beatings or neglect at little-regulated homes in Florida per month.

"There's so much information out there and so much that needs to be done, and we can't drop the ball on this," Sobel said. "This is a very, very important issue, and this committee is going to get it done."

The Agency for Healthcare Administration, which oversees ALFs, recommended proposals similar to those scrapped by the Legislature last year, from increased education requirements for administrators to a state website that would allow potential residents to shop facilities and rate them.

Several witnesses asked for more unannounced visits to facilities. Under current law, inspectors visit the state's 6,000 facilities only once every two years, said Jim Crochet, Florida's long-term care ombudsman.

"The more active we are in the facilities monitoring them up front, the less they will fester," he said. "We're hoping we can improve with time to meet that goal of four visits per year."

Although Sobel says "now is the time" to address ALF reform, she could face a daunting task in 2013, with momentum waning.

Change seemed inevitable at this time in 2012, with Gov. Rick Scott promising to clean up the industry and his ALF task force rolling out some of the most forceful reform proposals in decades.

Former Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, a vocal elder-advocate, got behind the issue. And a Miami-Dade County grand jury called for reforms. But Storms couldn't convince the House to take up the bill as the clock ticked down the final day of session.

This year, Storms has left the Legislature and Scott's task force has unveiled a second, more business-friendly round of proposals.

Meanwhile, industry leaders and their lobbyists seem to have made headway with lawmakers, some of whom expressed concern during the meeting that ALFs have a hard enough time staying afloat under existing regulations.

"Many of these facilities are already strapped; they're trying to balance quality care with their staffing needs and that sort of thing," said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. "I don't want to do anything to take away from their ability to care for their residents."

Brian Lee, director of Families for Better Care, said industry leaders want lawmakers to believe that problems are being adequately addressed by relatively modest adjustments to existing rules. A panel of ALF operators, policy makers, agency heads and resident advocates are in the final stages of hammering out those changes, which can be made within existing law.

"This is simply rearranging deck chairs; this piecemeal approach won't work," Lee told senators. "Residents need comprehensive, resident-focused new laws."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Donald Trump about about responses to school shootings. Bondi is preparing to defend Trump against accusations that he pressured a foreign government to aid his re-election campaign. And she’s stepping down from a lobbying where she represented foreign interests (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The special advisor to President Trump incorrectly stated Sondland’s role while appearing on national TV ahead of the EU ambassador’s testimony.
  2. On the left, NASA graphic of space junk in low Earth orbit. On the right, the view from further out. (NASA ODPO) NASA ODPO
    The U.S. Defense Department is tracking over 22,000 objects about the size of a softball or larger.
  3. 4 hours ago• Hillsborough
    U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R- Dover, when he served in the Florida House in 2017, SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    Spano has become a vociferous Trump defender and is comparing the investigation of his own 2018 campaign financing to the impeachment, which he calls a partisan sham.
  4. United States Air Force veteran Daniel Carmichael, of Inverness, shares his opinion before a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness, where the Citrus County Commission is expected to render a decision on whether to get digital subscriptions for the New York Times for all 70,000 of the county library cardholders. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes
    After two hours of debate, a motion to move forward with digital subscriptions for library cardholders fails 3-2.
  5. Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at pre-legislative news conference on Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    He’s got a new voucher proposal, as well.
  6. FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein the night before he took his own life are expected to face criminal charges this week for falsifying prison records. That’s according to two people familiar with the matter. The federal charges could come as soon as Tuesday and are the first in connection with Epstein’s death.. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File) AP
    “The FBI is involved and they are looking at criminal enterprise, yes,” said the nation’s top prisons administrator to Senators on Tuesday.
  7. The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts illuminated its new sign for the first time on Dec. 6, 2010. Times (2010)
    The historic donation that renamed the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center is still impacting Tampa Bay’s arts community.
  8. In this Thursday, Aug. 1, file photo, Amanda Kondrat'yev, the woman accused of throwing a sports drink at U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in June outside a town hall meeting, arrives at Winston Arnow Federal Court House in Pensacola, Fla. Kondrat'yev has been sentenced to 15 days in federal custody for throwing the sports drink at Gaetz. TONY GIBERSON  |  AP
    Amanda Kondrat’yev pleaded guilty to assault in August and had faced up to a year in jail.
  9. On the issue of whether to retroactively apply changes in Florida’s sentencing laws to inmates currently in prison, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he prefers to deal with cases using the clemency process. STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    Hundreds of Florida inmates are serving sentences no longer in state law, according to new research.
  10. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing $1 billion in increased teacher pay as part of a $91.4 billion state budget he put forward on Monday. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The Florida governor also wants to hire hundreds of new corrections officers and spend $1.4 billion on hurricane recovery.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement