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Gail Matillo: Legislature finally could OK needed assisted living facilities reform

While the Florida Legislature debates health care on many fronts, an important health care measure that has been in the works for several years and takes significant steps to better protect one of Florida’s most vulnerable populations, our state’s seniors, is now ready for final passage. 

That measure is assisted living reform.

 The assisted living reform measure under consideration, which the Florida Chapter of the Assisted Living Federation of America (FL ALFA) has advocated and supported for the past two legislative sessions, provides for innovative industry reforms and increased protections for Floridians residing in assisted living and memory care communities. 

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, R-Hollywood, who has long been a staunch champion of this measure and brought statewide attention to it, and Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Seminole), who has unfailingly pushed for ALF reform measures in the Florida House, have, once again, sponsored and heralded this good public policy through the process that will ensure Florida’s seniors are well cared for in their senior living communities. 

Among the many good measures included in the legislation sponsored by Sen. Sobel and Rep. Ahern are provisions that would:  Allow nurses, who work in an assisted living community with a limited nursing services specialty license, to practice to the full extent of their abilities within the scope of the community’s license; Expand the activities that a trained, unlicensed staff member can assist a resident with, such as the self-administration of medication, to avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor; Require that a community with one or more state-supported mental health residents obtain a limited mental health license; And, give the Agency for Health Care Administration the ability to focus on assisted living communities with a history of deficiencies. 

Currently, the Florida Senate and Florida House are both postured to take up and grant final passage to this legislation; and, with the imminent passage of this good bill, the public policy that Sen. Sobel and Rep. Ahern have been fighting for – to bring about innovative change to the assisted living industry, in order to better protect and serve Florida’s seniors – may soon come to pass. 

At FL ALFA, we are proud to serve and care for more than 29,000 Florida seniors from the Panhandle to the Keys; and, for that reason, we recognize the importance of continued modernization and reform in a state that has a growing senior population and we are elated to see our goal of improving the industry come to fruition.

 On behalf of FL ALFA, we sincerely thank Sen. Sobel and Rep. Ahern for being champions of this good public policy, as well as their colleagues in the Florida House and Senate for their consideration of this important reform measure.  

Now, let’s make 2015 the year assisted living reform passes and our state chooses to better protect Florida’s seniors and pass ALF reform during this legislative session. 

Gail Matillo is president and CEO of the Florida Chapter of the Assisted Living Federation of America. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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