Herald reports on failures of assisted living system

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Miami Herald‘s yearlong “Neglected to Death” series on abuse and violations in assisted living facilities is expansive, but I recommend starting with this explanation of how the story came together. In short, the crux of project, reported by Rob Barry, Carol Marbin Miller and Michael Sallah, is a huge database, which never had been made public, the paper obtained from state regulators. An accompanying editorial from Aminda Marques Gonzalez details its somewhat unique provenance.

At the heart of the reporting is a rich database of hundreds of thousands of records that includes all inspections and complaint investigations by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the sole regulatory agency for ALFs [assisted living facilities]. Layered in: a decade of complaints filed with the State Department of Elder Affairs and public records including police reports, death certificates and autopsy reports.

The paper has made the database searchable and open to the public.

The Herald reports on a facility where violence is so commonplace that incidents have prompted more than 1,200 calls to 911 in the past five years. It’s important to note that, while we usually think of assisted living for the elderly, there are such facilities for those who have mental illness and other disabilities.

Other stories tell of residents suffering from sores that went untreated, homes and caretakers that failed to keep medical records, facilities that did not protect vulnerable residents from those with a criminal background, a failure to track patients with dementia and more.

A timeline helps explain how and why the assisted-living facilities became a part of the Florida system and their growth.

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