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Florida lawmakers: Get tough on ALFs

After years of stripping away critical protections at assisted-living facilities, Florida lawmakers are radically changing course in what could lead to one of the toughest laws in the nation against abusive caretakers.

With rampant abuse across the state, key lawmakers are calling for homes to be shut down when residents die from shoddy care, and caretakers banned from the industry, in the biggest changes in state law since the creation of ALFs a generation ago.

Unveiled this week by two Senate committees, the dual bills follow months of reports by The Miami Herald that showed frail elders were living in squalor and dangerous conditions while regulators failed to crack down on the worst abusers.

“[The state] wasn’t doing its job,” said Sen. Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat and vice chair of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. “They were not enforcing the regulations, and not closing down facilities that didn’t correct the violations and abuse.”

Not since the creation of ALFs four decades ago in Florida have lawmakers proposed such comprehensive legislation to improve oversight, including mandatory penalties in fatal neglect cases and creation of a public rating system for homes based on their regulatory rap sheets.

The bills also strip away some power from Florida’s regulator, the Agency for Health Care Administration, which has drawn fire for failing to close troubled homes, even after caretakers were found abusing residents to death.

More from Michael Sallah and Carol Marbin Miller here.