Florida health administrators are slashing hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars to a troubled Tampa Bay assisted living facility chain in a move that could jeopardize the homes ability to keep their doors open.
The action by the Agency for Health Care Administration leaders to stop Medicaid dollars to the homes comes two weeks after a caregiver at one of the facilities was arrested for rape, and one month after The Miami Herald profiled the homes in a series, Neglected to Death, which showed the state had allowed scores of problem homes to remain open sometimes for years despite a litany of abuses.
In a letter dated June 13, the state agency informed the owners of the Mapleway Communities ALF chain that, beginning in 30 days, they will no longer be able to bill for services under Medicaid, the state and federal insurance program for needy and disabled people. Medicaid pays for a variety of services for people with developmental disabilities at the homes.
AHCA has determined that it is no longer in the best interest of the Medicaid program for these providers to continue participating, an agency spokeswoman, Shelisha Coleman, said Wednesday. Coleman said AHCA employees hand delivered the termination letters to Mapleway Tuesday, and are working with staff at two sister agencies the Department of Children & Families and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to counsel residents who will be affected by the action and may need to find new living arrangements
The three Mapleways Communities homes in the chain are Hillandale in New Port Richey; Mapleway in Safety Harbor, near Clearwater; and Amelias House, in Pinellas Park, near St. Petersburg.
Prior to the termination, Medicaid coordinated with Agency for Persons with Disabilities and other state agency partners to evaluate the impact of the termination actions including available beds in other facilities and identification of case managers, Coleman wrote in a short statement to The Herald.
John Ross, the chains administrator, declined to comment to a Herald reporter Wednesday.
The health care agencys action came a month after The Heralds series about AHCAs failure to supervise Florida assisted living facilities, which once were hailed as a national model of care for elders who require some assistance, but do not need to live in a nursing home. In recent years, some of the states ALFs have become a magnet for abuse and neglect.
The series included significant reporting on the Hillandale ALF, the largest of the three homes in the Mapleway chain, and the most troubled: Caregivers have been caught forcing residents into locked closets, doping them with powerful tranquilizers and physically restraining them with violent takedowns.
While AHCA administrators last month declared that Hillandale had resolved its problems and was not under any sanctions, the state disabilities agency has refused to send thousands in housing dollars to the facility since 2005, citing ongoing concerns. A decades worth of records showed Hillandale had been plagued by violence among residents and staff, including two reported rapes and a death that elder abuse investigators attributed to caregiver neglect.
In May, just weeks after the series was published, police in Pasco County arrested 57-year-old Orlando Baez, who admitted to sexually abusing a 26-year-old woman living at Hillandale. The reported victim told deputies that Baez coaxed her out of view of the facilitys security cameras and sexually abused her, including one incident when he told her to meet him in a bathroom and disrobe.