It was important to me that we have his interest and his experience on the ground, said Storms, who is leading the initiative to reform Floridas ALF law.
For Smith, the incoming Senate minority leader, the cluster of assisted-living facilities in his district was always a curiosity, but he said he never knew the dangers the homes posed to residents until The Heralds series.
The newspaper found a 74-year-old resident was bound for more than six hours, the restraints pulled so tightly they ripped into her skin and killed her, a 71-year-old man with schizophrenia died from burns after he was left in a bathtub filled with scalding water and a 75-year-old Alzheimers patient was torn apart by an alligator after wandering from his ALF for the fourth time.
One of the places profiled in the stories was Briarwood the most heavily fined facility in Florida which has left dozens of residents with mental illness to fend for themselves in dangerous conditions. Twice, regulators could have moved to shutter the facility since 2007, but even after the home failed to pay thousands of dollars in fines for years, it was allowed to stay open.
Smith said he was riled after learning the 34-bed home gets hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars every year to house residents. These are state-licensed facilities, and more than that, facilities the state is paying for, said Smith. And thats just astonishing.
In addition, The Herald obtained records that show some of the tax dollars provided to the home meant for residents a $54-per-month stipend werent ending up in their hands, forcing the Department of Elder Affairs to step in two years ago.
The homes owner, Andy Subachan, did not return calls seeking comment.
Several state agencies are expected to continue investigating conditions at the homes in Cannon Point, including the suspicious death at Shalom Manor on May 12.
Not only did caretakers fail to call 911 for 37 minutes after discovering James Hazels lifeless body, but police are now investigating why medical records describing the care he received during his past two months have disappeared, reports state. Hazel suffered from diabetes and other serious health problems, but no autopsy was performed to determine how he died, police said.
Shalom Manor administrator Emmins Henry told The Herald she doesnt know what happened to the records, but suggested that officers may have taken them on the morning Hazel died. However, a spokesperson for the Lauderhill Police Department said that wasnt the case. There would be no reason for them to do that, said Capt. Constance Stanley.
Stanley was among a group of law enforcement officers and inspectors who returned to the neighborhood early Friday morning for another round of unannounced visits.
At Briarwood, inspectors once again turned up many of the same problems, including a cache of used hypodermic needles stashed in an open filing drawer and a 51-year-old man forced to sleep on a living room sofa because his sheets were infested with bedbugs.
I dont want to get bit no more, Lewis Hill, lying on a cramped, black sofa with his feet dangling over the side, told The Herald.
Two weeks after his visit to the facility, Sen. Smith said he wasnt surprised at the newest findings. From the total lack of decency that I observed from my visit, Im sad to say that Im not shocked that there were still major violations, he said.
WLRN-Miami Herald reporter Kenny Malone contributed to this report.