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The Miami Herald conducted a year-long investigation of Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) in Florida, and recently published the first in a three-part series reporting their findingsThe Herald staff studied state inspection records, autopsy reports and court cases, in addition to interviewing ALF residents and staff. Their investigation has revealed shocking evidence of abuse and neglect in Florida ALFs, and has shown that the agencies tasked with regulating these facilities have often failed to do so. The Miami Herald’s reporting seems to suggest that the safeguards intended to protect elderly and mentally ill residents of ALFs are simply being ignored. Florida has the nation’s highest percentage of residents over the age of 85. Yet somehow, our state’s public spending on programs for the elderly is the lowest in the nation. And as the number of ALFs in our state skyrocketed over the past decade, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has steadily cut back on the oversight they are intended to provide.
NPR’s Morning Edition did a radio report on the lax enforcement of ALFs in Florida this week, based on the Miami Herald investigation. You can find the NPR report here. If the trend of understaffed Florida ALFs neglecting their residents continues, and AHCA continues refusing to flex its regulatory muscles, we will surely see a growing number of tragedies like the ones these reports have uncovered. In the absence of proper regulatory oversight, it seems the only incentive for ALFs to improve their standard of care is the threat of civil lawsuits. Yet our state lawmakers are actively trying to rearrange Florida’s laws, to make it virtually impossible to sue for damages if you or a loved one is injured or killled as a result of mistreatment in an assisted living facility. The attorneys of Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter have been in Tallahassee all month fighting against the proposed changes in the law. We will continue doing everything we can to fight against any attack on seniors’ rights in Florida, and ask that you join us. Tell your legislators to protect our state’s most vulnerable citizens from abuse and neglect.