Senate panel wants end to unlicensed ALF’s


Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

A Senate committee on Tuesday vowed to put an end to unlicensed assisted living facilities after a Miami Herald story revealed that homes have been using loopholes to escape state scrutiny.

The Herald story uncovered facilities that billed themselves as shelters, rooming houses or “sober homes”, but in actuality operated as ALFs. Many had deplorable conditions and at least one owner had a criminal history.

“I want to be equipped to go into those bad actors and shut them down now,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, at a meeting of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.

Along with providing housing, the state’s nearly 3,000 licensed ALFs help residents with tasks like bathing, dressing and taking medication. Owners must pass a background check, pay fees and pass regular inspections.

Elizabeth Dudek, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, told the committee that her staff could issue “cease and desist” orders but that owners often disappeared when inspectors returned. There was also discussion about working more with law enforcement.

AHCA can impose fines of up to $1,000 a day when unlicensed ALFs continue to operate after getting notice from the agency. But regulators fined just seven of the 93 unlicensed providers it identified since the beginning of 2012, according to agency records.

Hays, who said there was “documentation of horrific treatment of people” told Dudek to instruct her department’s legal team “to embrace the intent of this committee, which is to be very decisive, very quickly, to act on these unlicensed people and don’t treat them with kid gloves but to treat them with a hammer.”

Lawmakers have been trying to reform the state’s licensed homes since a 2011 Herald investigation revealed neglect, abuse and death of ALF residents. Committee chairwoman Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said she was “extremely frustrated” after her reform bill passed the Senate last year but failed to pass the House.

On Tuesday, the committee started again, unanimously passing proposed reforms. Changes include requiring increased care for mentally-ill residents, additional training for staff and the creation of a consumer website where people can see ratings of ALFs and lodge complaints.

The bill met little opposition at the meeting, though some industry groups were not represented.

Peggy Rigsby, who spoke for the Florida Health Care Association, said after the meeting that the group supports the bill, but “we just don’t want to go and add even more above and beyond what’s in the proposal. … It seems to me that the professional associations that represent assisted living facilities seem to have reached a point where they’re more interested in having something happen.”

Read more Neglected to Death stories from the Miami Herald


    ALF reforms go undone in Tallahassee

    For the third straight year, legislators have failed to pass reforms to the state’s troubled assisted-living facilities industry. Backers vow to press ahead once again next year.


    State elder-care watchdog job search re-opened

    The new hire will be the third person in less than three years to lead the volunteer ombudsmen who visit assisted-living facilities and nursing homes to ensure that residents receive adequate care.


    Senate panel wants end to unlicensed ALF’s

    Following a Miami Herald story about unlicensed assisted-living facilities using loopholes to escape state scrutiny, lawmakers sought to shut them down.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category