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Senator vows to try again on ALF reform

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 planned 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 is killed per month from starvation, beatings or neglect at little-regulated homes in Florida.

“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.

Read more here. 

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