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Lawmakers Hope This Is The Year For Assisted Living Facility Bill

Ronn Aldaman via Flickr
Credit Ronn Aldaman via Flickr

Florida has the largest percentage of seniors in the United States, and officials expect that number to grow as more baby boomers reach the retirement age. With that in mind, lawmakers are looking to fix the state’s assisted living industry, which has been riddled lately with stories of neglect and abuse. 

Sen. Sobel Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) says the Senate has approved an ALF overhaul before. But the House has been slower to approve any changes.

"“I’m confident – pretty confident we will pass legislation this year to significantly improve the lives of the over 86-thousand residents in the ALFs in Florida,” Sobel says.

Sobel’s bill is heading to the Senate floor and she’s got her fingers crossed as a similar bill heads for a full review in the House. Rep Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) is sponsoring the House bill.

The House and Senate bills aren’t identical, but carry many of the same provisions. Ahern says his measure will require assisted living facilities to inform any incoming residents that they should feel free to lodge any grievances or complaints without the worry of retaliation. The bill also lays out a framework for oversight and sanctions from the Agency for Healthcare Administration. Ahern says his measure is a positive move for anyone involved with Assisted Living Facilities

“It requires AHCA to impose an immediate moratorium on a facility that fails to provide access to the facility or prohibits AHCA from conducting a regulatory inspection. Again, this bill seeks to strengthen the protection of the residents. These are people’s live we’re talking about here, while at the same time striking that good balance of helping the businesses and the regulatory process to get better," Ahern says.

Sen. David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) says fines levied against nursing homes violating rules raised a number of red flags during last session’s discussion on the issue.

This year to avoid that Ahern’s bill leaves the fee system at status quo. He says that means it’ll be up to the department to make that decision. Meanwhile, Sobel is touting her measure’s efforts to increase mental healthcare provided in assisted living facilities.

“ The bill requires facilities with one or more state supported mental health resident to obtain a specialty license for limited mental health. ALF employee training is improved prior to starting work and finally the role of the consumer is strengthened,” Sobel says.

Sobel says the bill also requires the agency for healthcare administration's website to be improved to help family members make informed decisions when choosing an assisted living facility for their loved ones. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill appear slated for full chamber hearings soon.

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