Gov. Hobbs spurs assisted living facility investigation, targets legislative action on reforms

Oct 27, 2023, 4:25 AM | Updated: 12:38 pm

Hobbs katie governor assisted living elderly...

Democratic candidate for Arizona governor Katie Hobbs poses for photos with campaign volunteers on November 06, 2022 in Tucson. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs on Tuesday announced she is directing the Department of Health Services and the Department of Economic Security’s Adult Protective Services program to investigate complaints at Heritage Village assisted living facility and how the state’s oversight functions could have performed better.

She also announced her administration’s intention to push for strengthened accountability measures for health care institutions, including assisted living facilities, in the next legislative session.

“These health care facilities lack true accountability,” Gov. Hobbs said in a press release. “The stories from Heritage Village and others are horrific and unacceptable. I am directing DHS and APS to immediately launch an investigation into the unacceptable response to complaints at Heritage Village.”

AzCentral published an in-depth investigation into Heritage Village, 8035 E. Brown Road, Mesa, on Oct. 23. The article said the facility received 148 citations from the state over the past three years, which is 2.5 times more than any other similar facility.

Problems at the facility have been numerous over the past several years. In 2020, a caregiver at the facility was accused of raping a dementia patient. In 2019, one resident was accused of killing the other.

The Department of Economic Security’s Adult Protective Services program investigates reports of abuse, neglect and maltreatment of vulnerable adults. The department cross-reports to local law enforcement when an allegation could be deemed a crime may have been committed. Local police then investigates and determines if the allegation is criminal.

A recent audit from the Arizona Auditor General’s Office found Adult Protective Services substantiates less than 1% of all the cases it investigates while the national substantiation rate is 33%.

Hobbs said her staff is developing a comprehensive package to address health care facility licensing that includes cracking down on bad actors, protecting patient care, and strengthening accountability.

“Over the coming weeks, we will be announcing a legislative package to ensure we are keeping Arizonans safe and bring accountability to a system that has lacked it for too long,” Hobbs said.

Some of the potential reforms may include:

  • Allow ADHS to increase fees and fines based on the severity of an infraction
  • Increase ADHS regulatory powers, including cracking down on license hopping, and empower the agency to revoke licenses for cause
  • Close inspection loopholes for facilities that are licensed by accreditation or have a previous deficiency free inspection
  • Implement robust licensure requirements for assisted living facilities
  • Invest in additional employees and legal support for ADHS
  • Increase regulation and certification of facilities advertising Alzheimer’s, memory, and dementia care
  • Create a new, transparent quality rating system available to the general public for residential and nursing care institutions, which includes skilled nursing, assisted living, and long-term care facilities, within the AZ Care Check system

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Gov. Hobbs spurs assisted living facility investigation, targets legislative action on reforms