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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Department of Justice Launches National Nursing Home Initiative

PROVIDENCE – United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman joined Attorney General William P. Barr in announcing today 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.”

United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman added, “When a loved one requires nursing home care, their families, and our communities, should have no apprehension that the care provided might be grossly substandard.  The Attorney General’s National Nursing Home Initiative, aimed at identifying and remedying substandard nursing home care, is yet another manifestation of the Department of Justice’s commitment to ensuring the welfare of our senior citizens.”

“Fear of the unknown and the worst that could happen add to the already difficult decision families face when putting a loved one in a nursing home,” said  Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Rest assured, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will work hard to hold accountable owners and operators of these facilities who fail to reinvest profits in the dignified care of vulnerable patients, and ensure their golden years are just that.”

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 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/

If you are a victim or know a victim of elder fraud, you can call 1-877-FTC-HELP or go to ftc.gov/complaint. For downloadable Elder Abuse Prevention resources and for information about community outreach programs in Rhode Island, visit the United States Attorney’s Office’s Elder Justice Initiative web page at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ri/elder-justice

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Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Contact: 
Jim Martin (401) 709-5357
Press Release Number: 
20-38
Updated March 3, 2020