Over the last six years, the state Department of Social Services assessed fines amounting to more than $2 million dollars for violations to health code and instances of neglect or abuse in the state’s assisting living facilities. But an investigation into the department’s records show that less than half of the expected $2 million was paid back to Social Services by the end of 2013. This news is troubling, especially considering that the facilities who had been sanctioned most heavily have yet to make their repayment, elder abuse attorneys in San Francisco say.
The federal government organizes inspections and sanctions for nursing homes across the country, but each state is in charge of policing its own assisted living home facilities. In California, state lawmakers have taken an interest in the assisted living institution, due in part to the state’s high population of residents over the age of 65. But even with the heavy fines, sanctioned institutions are not holding up their end of the bargain. One facility in Shasta County paid none of their $250,000 fine; another in Southern California paid only $1,600 on their $19,200 penalty.
These discrepancies between amount owed and amount paid may be the result of a variety of factors. According to a spokesman for the Department, the state can be forced to slow down their collection process, and sometimes even to stop the process altogether. Facilities that go out of business after being slapped with violations and fines may never pay what they owe. Other facilities can appeal their sanctions, and may do so continuously through the four-level appeals process, and do not pay anything during that time. An appellate court may eventually dismiss or reduce the initial fine amount as well.
Despite these roadblocks, the California Senate’s Human Services committee has plans to review the apparent neglect in collecting fees from assisted living facilities this month, and hopes to make changes going forward to ensure that sanctioned facilities are in fact making restitution for the damages, potential hazards, and other laws that they may have broken. The Department will be investigating why certain assisted living institutions have not yet paid their fines, and developing a plan to streamline the collections process, possibly using an automated system that will keep track of unpaid fees.
The state has become more diligent in protecting elderly Californians from abusive or substandard assisted living facilities. In 2012, 72 facilities had their operating licenses revoked for violating the state’s assisted living home standards and laws, and many of these facilities have been threatened with permanent termination. By contrast, in 2008, the state revoked 52 licenses for similar violations. However, California has yet to implement a rigorous inspection routine across the board, and San Francisco elder abuse attorneys say that improvement in this area would lead to a higher calibar of facilities for the elderly throughout the state. In recent years, the California Assisted Living Association has led several campaigns for reform in these areas.
At the Evans Law Firm, our elder abuse attorneys serve the San Francisco Bay area who could be in danger from potential abuse or unsafe living conditions in the state’s facilities. If you have concerns about the care you or your loved ones are receiving, contact an Evans Law attorney at 415-441-8669 or www.evanslaw.com today.