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State Senate Committee Takes Steps to Close Unlicensed Assisted Living Facilities

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on October 18, 2013

In a move supported by James O. Cunningham and other Orlando elder abuse attorneys, a Senate committee recently vowed to close unlicensed assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Florida. The committee responded to a recent article in the Miami Herald that revealed many unlicensed ALF operators have been using loopholes in state laws to escape routine inspections by state agencies. The article found many facilities that claimed to be rooming houses, shelters or “sober homes” but were, for all intents and purposes, ALFs with deplorable conditions for residents. One operator had a criminal history which would have prevented them from owning or operating a licensed ALF.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, spoke forcefully against unlicensed ALFs in our state during a recent meeting of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.

“I want to be equipped to go into those bad actors and shut them down now,” Hays said.

Florida has more than 3,000 licensed assisted living facilities, which help hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled Floridians with everyday tasks, such as bathing, dressing, taking medication and other types of care. Owners are required to pass a criminal background check, pay licensing fees and pass annual inspections in order to remain open.

Elizabeth Dudek, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, reported that her staff could issue “cease and desist” orders to unlicensed ALFs, but the owners often disappear before inspections arrive at their facilities.

Hays chastised Dudek for her agency’s lack of oversight, saying that there was “documentation of horrific treatment of people.” He instructed her agencies legal team to “to embrace the intent of this committee, which is to be very decisive, very quickly, to act on these unlicensed people and don’t treat them with kid gloves but to treat them with a hammer.”

The vast majority of licensed assisted living facilities in our state provide excellent care for their residents. However, if a facility is operating outside the law, there is no oversight to ensure that residents receive adequate care and abuses are likely to go unnoticed and unreported. Making matters worse, many abuse victims are unable or unwilling to report abuse for fear of reprisals. If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of elder abuse, call your local police department and ask them to investigate. If you or someone you know is an elder abuse victim and you would like to speak with an experienced Orlando personal injury lawyer, call Mr. Cunningham today at 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587) and schedule a free consultation.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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