Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers know that unlicensed nursing care homes are a problem in our state, which is why the Georgia Department of Community Health is partnering with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to crack down on these unlicensed homes, according to news reports.
The partnership also includes the Adult Protective Services, which is under the Department of Human Services. The group will be aggressive in working to stop unlicensed homes from staying in business. Clyde Reese, the commissioner of the Department of Community Health, said the facilities deliver "substandard care to the elderly and disabled.The unlicensed homes are operating throughout Georgia, and many are near Atlanta and in southwest Georgia. Mr. Reese contends that it is a growing problem and that there are hundreds of unlicensed homes in the state, along with increased incidents of elder abuse. This is exacerbated by the vulnerable nature of seniors, who are often unable to defend themselves or even speak up about abuse. And to avoid legal troubles, unlicensed homes often switch residences.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations intends to share intelligence and data gathering with the Department.
With sponsorship from Representative Sharon Cooper, the General Assembly of Georgia passed a new law earlier this year strengthening penalties for running an unlicensed nursing home. Now the first offense of abuse or neglect or exploitation is a felony in Georgia. The discussion of this law in the Assembly included horrible examples of abuse to demonstrate the clear need for a tougher legal regime. In Cobb County, an unlicensed nursing home kept a 50 year old patient with dementia in a garage that was "sweltering hotand deprived the woman of food and medicine. Under the old legal regime, the responsible unlicensed care home owner got a one-day jail sentence after a plea bargain for time served. In addition to cases of physical abuse, exploitation is also a serious problem. Unlicensed care home owners trick elderly patients into signing over retirement checks and Social Security checks. The story of Alzheimer's Care of Commerce where felons were employed, who then assaulted, restrained and over-medicated patients seemed to be a turning point in getting attention on the serious issue of unlicensed homes and elder abuse. Twenty people were arrested and there is an ongoing investigations into whether some of the deaths at the home were homicides.
Care in licensed facilities also needs scrutiny. Mr. Reese told reporters that the Department will have a re-bidding for contracts to coordinate care of the elderly and disabled under Medicaid and will begin next month, with more details to follow. The last bidding process came in over budget.
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