Senior respect or abuse and neglect? Florida law sparks debate

A bill designed to address problems of abuse and neglect in Florida’s assisted living facilities has passed the Florida Senate and was sent to the state’s governor for approval. Proponents of the bill say that it will fill a problematic void and improve enforcement and oversight in the facilities that serve over 86,000 senior Floridians. Opponents of the legislation criticize the fact that the law would reduce the number of oversight visits for facilities with good records.

HB 1001/SB 382

Under the status quo in Florida, facilities are subject to inspections every two years. However, under the new bill, HB 1001/SB 382, homes that are found to have a major violation would be subject to more frequent inspections. The bill clarifies standards for the revocation of licensing for facilities that continually violate regulatory standards. The bill also authorizes a $500 penalty for facilities that fail to provide background screenings for staff. Regulators would also be permitted, under the law, to double fines on facilities that fail to correct serious violations within a six-month period.

Debate

Republican state representative Larry Ahern said that the goal of the legislation was to “find a balance” between oversight, business interests, and patient needs. Ahern expressed the opinion that the focus of any legislation should be on “bad apples because the good ones will take care of themselves—for the most part.” However, Brian Lee, director of the advocacy group Families for Better Care, said that the legislation “will only shrink oversight of those assisted living facilities who care for the most vulnerable ALF residents.” Additionally, Lee warned that the facilities “need more oversight, not less.”