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January 19, 2018 Ÿ



Comments to the Declaration of Right Committee
“Proposal 88 is an historic opportunity to radically change long-term care
for the betterment of Florida’s elderly for generations to come.”

Good morning Chairman Carlton and distinguished members of the Declaration of
Rights Committee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to offer my input on
Proposal 88. My name is Brian Lee.

I am a national elder advocacy expert and I am the executive director of Families for
Better Care, leading national watchdog group advocating for nursing home and
assisted living facility residents. For nearly half my life, I have sought to improve
long-term care conditions professionally in the private and public sectors, but also
as a family member. During that time, I served as Florida’s State Long-Term Care
Ombudsman between 2003-2011. Over these past 20 years I have seen the great,
the good, the bad, and the ugly of nursing home and assisted living care.

Before I begin my remarks, I want to say, without equivocation, that there are many
good operators running facilities and many more great caregivers who are working
hard every day offering loving care to our families.

Now we all saw and recount the haunting aerial images of resident-after-resident
being rolled out on stretchers after the Hollywood Hills tragedy. Those images have
cast a long shadow over this committee’s deliberations, for it was Governor Scott
who rightly asked this Commission to “consider adding permanent measures to put
resident safety first.” I am personally very grateful to Governor Scott for his
leadership in working to make elder care safer in the wake of the Hollywood Hills
tragedy.

An overarching theme that resonated through last week’s workshop conversation
was whether or not Proposal 88 would have prevented the Hollywood Hills tragedy.
I have come this morning to shed some light on this question.

The fact is, the current laws on the books FAILED to prevent the painful suffering
and death of these beloved folks.

Why did this happen?

Because residents of Hollywood Hills, and the thousands of other residents in
nursing homes and assisted living facilities, have lived through an era of industry
appeasement, that’s resulted in the soft pedaling of rights and regulations to benefit
providers—not the residents.

In addition to Hollywood Hills, last year alone, the Agency for Health Care
Administration added dozens of nursing homes to the state’s watch list and
shuttered 10 facilities for harming residents or neglecting facility conditions.

Here are just a few examples I pulled from the grab bag of grossness found in AHCA
inspections at these facilities, just last year: a resident dying from the neglect of a
“serious medical issue”; a nursing home failing to repair painted over fire sprinklers,
even after repeated warnings by state officials telling them to correct the problem; a
resident denied medical attention after a fall who later died; rampant bed bug
infestations that were left to fester in residents’ mattresses, and one facility that
“twice lost track of one resident and dumped another in a hotel over lack of
payment.”

These are just a micro sampling of harmful incidents to residents. The fact is,
Florida’s current laws and regulations are failing to prevent these atrocities.

For years, lobbyists and lawmakers have ridden roughshod over calls for
improvement. A failed promise to increase nursing home staffing levels, the
deregulation of assisted living facilities, and the recent news of the shocking
reduction of nursing enforcement by federal officials are just a few painful ways
residents have repeatedly taken it on the chin—all for the benefit of the long-term
care industry.

Not the residents.

This policy neglect has perpetuated a culture of fear for residents and their families,
a culture of neglect, and culture of death of vulnerable elderly in far too many
nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

In my 15 years of Florida advocacy, I recall only ONE, I repeat that ONLY ONE law
passed that benefited residents, and that was the personal needs allowance increase
mentioned in the outstanding testimony of the Chipley administrator last week. But
as the gentleman said, the Legislature sought to, almost immediately after its
passage, carve up that allowance. Thank goodness, he fought back to protect it. The
fact is, residents’ rights and their protections are vulnerable to change at any time in
Florida law or rules at the whim of whomever is in power—with little or no
counterargument from residents and their families.

Proposal 88 will change that dynamic. Proposal 88 assures that any proposed laws
would have to comport with the spirit of the rights enumerated within an
unshakeable, elder rights-centric, constitution. This would create a new bedrock
from which resident protections can be rebuilt that will make homes safer by never
acquiescing on the healthcare, the safety, and the treatment of our loved ones.

Before you is an historic opportunity that would radically change the trajectory of
Florida long-term care for the betterment of Florida’s elderly. Your “yes” vote for
Proposal 88 would most certainly save elderly lives for generations to come.

I urge you to vote to in the affirmative.

Brian Lee, Executive Director
850.491.0066 Ÿ brian@familiesforbettercare.com