Report: Oversight of Vt. assisted living, residential care homes falling short

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 6:20 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A new report from Vermont’s auditor says state regulators are not following the law when it comes to oversight of some long-term care facilities.

Mansfield Place in Essex is among the 114 assisted living or residential care homes that house more than 3,000 Vermonters, and are a critical component to housing seniors in a state with the second oldest population.

“Where people live their full lives and then we are there to support if and when needed and during those times said Cathy Williams, Mansfield Place’s executive director. She says they look forward to inspections from the state and check in regularly to make sure they’re on the right track. “For families that are looking for the best care for their loved ones or the people themselves looking for their own care, it gives them piece of mind there’s been a review. It’s not just a piece of paper that people are expected to follow but something that’s actually being actively in process.”

In a new report, Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer looked back seven years and uncovered substantial noncompliance in more than 50% of all inspections, including injuries and three deaths.

“There is clearly a difference between the way people in those facilities -- assisted-living, residential care -- are treated than the people in nursing homes. Part of that is because of statute and part of it is an allocation of resources by {the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living}, and that’s unfortunate,” Hoffer said

The audit found DAIL was doing inspections at residential care homes and assisted living facilities once every two years instead of every year. The auditor also says DAIL was not following up in a timely manner to make sure serious issues were corrected.

“Now, we are adequately resourced to have annual visits and more frequently in the event of serious allegations of serious issues that might arise,” said DAIL Commissioner Monica White. She says she is looking forward to more funding in the FY 2023 budget which will allow the them to hire five more inspectors.

“The State-licensed long-term care team we’ll have will be able to have greater capacity to address those issues when they occur -- which is rare.”

Hoffer says adding five positions won’t be enough. He says the audit isn’t an indicator that the system is falling apart but he questions why DAIL is not fining facilities that do not make necessary changes. DAIL has said they are worried costly fines will put some care homes out of business.

“The state wants to have as many beds as possible because there’s a lot of people who need these services. On the other hand, the state needs to ensure those other facilities are safe and taking care of the wellbeing of elder Vermonters all of whom are vulnerable,” Hoffer said.

The audit also uncovered 11 care facilities that had not been inspected since 2018. DAIL says they have already inspected some of the remaining 11 and will be going to the others soon.

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