GEORGIA HEALTH NEWS
February 18, 2014
A Georgia House panel on Monday approved a bill that would toughen penalties for operating an unlicensed personal care home, raising a first offense to a felony from a misdemeanor.
The vote came after compelling testimony from Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn, who described to the House Health and Human Services Committee two cases of abuse in unlicensed Cobb County homes.
In one case, Flynn said, a woman in her 50s with dementia was kept in a garage in a “sweltering hot” home and was deprived of food and medicine.
The owner in that case, after a plea bargain, was given just a one-day sentence, with credit for time served, Flynn said.
“That really got our attention,” he said.
In a second case, Flynn testified about a Cobb woman accused of physically abusing elderly patients who police say were living in squalor at an unlicensed Marietta adult care home.
“We called it a house of horrors,” he said.
The woman has denied the abuse charges.
Unlicensed personal care homes have been a problem in Georgia for years. Many of the residents are frail seniors and are unable to defend themselves from abuse.
Morris News Services reported last year that the number of reported complaints of physical, mental and financial abuse of Georgia’s elderly rose 65 percent between 2008 and 2012.
And the National Center for Elder Abuse estimates that more than 80 percent of instances of abuse, neglect and exploitation go unreported.
“We’re seeing a lot of this,” said Brad Smith, a district attorney for a circuit that includes Jackson and Barrow counties. “There’s a lot of (unlicensed homes) out there.”
Authorities raided Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce in July following allegations that staff there assaulted, restrained and over-medicated patients. The center, which employed convicted felons, is also under investigation for the possibility that some deaths were homicides.
The owner and 20 employees were arrested following the raid.
Georgia Health News (georgiahealthnews.com) is an independent news organization devoted to covering health care in the state.
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