Senate panel approves tougher rules for ALFs


The News Service of Florida

A measure that would tighten oversight of Florida’s 3,000 assisted living facilities and penalize those that abuse or neglect their residents was approved unanimously by the Senate Health Policy Committee on Thursday.

The bill (SB 646) requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to inspect ALFs, rate them for consumers and revoke or deny the licenses of those whose staffers deliberately harm residents. The bill would increase fines for repeated serious violations and require additional inspections in those cases.

Last year, a similar measure passed the Senate, but the House didn’t take it up. This year, however, a flurry of related bills was introduced in the House.

•  HB 187 by Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, would revoke the license of a facility for violations that resulted in a resident’s death and fine and/or discipline the administrator.

•  HB 1319 by Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, authorizes AHCA to suspend the license of facilities with repeated violations and establishes the requirements to qualify as an ALF administrator.

•  HB 865 by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would require the certification of ALF administrators; Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, is sponsoring the Senate companion.

•  HB 1313 by Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, designates the responsibilities of the Department of Children and Families, along with mental health service providers, for ALF residents who have a mental illness. It also provides an inspection schedule.

•  HB 1015 by Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, reorganizes the Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Advisory Council, which have been the focus of much debate. The bill also would require long-term care facilities to provide inspection officials with access to facilities, residents and records. Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, is the Senate sponsor.

AHCA has been under fire since a 2011 series by The Miami Herald, "Neglected to Death," depicted a series of hair-raising abuses at assisted living facilities that resulted in patients’ deaths, an average of one per month at that time.

Representatives of the assisted living facility industry have maintained that only a handful of subpar facilities were responsible.

After Thursday’s vote in the Senate Health Policy Committee, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said she thought AHCA was fully committed to cracking down on bad actors among the ALFs. "And if they’re not, they better be," she said.

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