Department Of Justice Launches a National Nursing Home Initiative
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser of the Eastern District of Louisiana joined Attorney General William P. Barr on March 3, 2020 to announce the Department of Justice’s National Nursing Home Initiative, which will coordinate and enhance civil and criminal efforts to pursue nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.
This initiative is focusing on some of the worst nursing homes around the country and the Department has already initiated investigations into approximately thirty individual nursing facilities in nine states as part of this effort.
“Millions of seniors count on nursing homes to provide them with quality care, and to treat them with dignity and respect when they are most vulnerable,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Yet, all too often, we have found nursing home owners or operators who put profits over patients, leading to instances of gross abuse and neglect. This national initiative will bring to justice those owners and operators who have profited at the expense of their residents, and help to ensure residents receive the care to which they are entitled.”
“As the population of our nation ages, more and more American families rely on nursing homes to provide quality care to their loved ones,” said U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser. “Sadly, however, the instances of physical, psychological, or financial neglect have become more common. The implementation of The National Nursing Home Initiative provides another tool to ensure the welfare of our elderly family members that we have entrusted to the care of nursing homes. The ultimate goal of this worthy initiative is to root out those nursing homes that prey on both their elderly residents as well as the family of those residents.”
“The mission of the FBI is to protect the rights of all Americans, especially those who cannot protect themselves,” said Bryan A. Vorndran, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge. “People housed in nursing homes rely on the support, attention, and care of the nursing home staff to fulfill their basic needs. Too often, we hear of situations of abuse by nursing home personnel to a family member or friend residing in an assisted living facility. We urge Americans to report this abuse and mistreatment, so we can bring justice to those who seek to defraud or abuse the most vulnerable members of our community.”
The department considers a number of factors in identifying the most problematic nursing homes. For example, the department looks for nursing homes that consistently fail to provide adequate nursing staff to care for their residents, fail to adhere to basic protocols of hygiene and infection control, fail to provide their residents with enough food to eat so that they become emaciated and weak, withhold pain medication, or use physical or chemical restraints to restrain or otherwise sedate their residents. These care failures cause residents to suffer in pain and to be exposed to the great indignities. Care failures cause residents to develop pressure sores down to the bone, to lie in their own waste for hours, to starve because they cannot reach the food on their trays and to remain unwashed for weeks at a time. Nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care also force vulnerable elderly residents who cannot leave the facilities to live in filthy and dangerous conditions where there are leaks in the roofs, mold is found growing and rodents found living in residents’ rooms. These are some of the actions and the inactions that the department intends to pursue.
The National Nursing Home Initiative reflects the department’s larger strategy and commitment to protecting our nation’s seniors, coordinated by the department’s Elder Justice Initiative in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. The Elder Justice Initiative and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are essential to the department’s investigative and enforcement efforts against nursing homes and other long-term care entities that deliver grossly substandard care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The Initiative and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices also support the efforts of state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and other elder justice professionals to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, with the development of training, resources, and information. Learn more about the Justice Department’s Elder Justice Initiative at http://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/.