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A new report put out by the independent Arizona Auditor General’s Office found that the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has been improperly investigating complaints of nursing home abuse and neglect for years.
The report, which was released in May and addressed by lawmakers at a June 17 hearing, is a 30-month follow up to a September 2019 report that detailed the state health department’s lack of properly and quickly responding to allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect—if they responded at all.
The 2019 report included five detailed suggestions on how the state health department could improve their response to reports of nursing home abuse and neglect.
As of the most recent report, none of the suggestions were followed.
The audit report includes detailed accusations that conclude that ADHS didn’t investigate serious complaints at nursing homes quickly enough, downgraded complaints, and sometimes even closed them without proper investigation.
Some of the report’s findings include:
- ADHS failed to perform on-site investigations for nearly three-quarters of its high priority complaints of nursing home abuse and neglect.
- The state classified high-priority complaints about nursing homes to lower priorities, impacting the required response time.
- The health department wrongly closed most of the high priority complaints without a required on-site investigation. These included complaints of nursing home abuse and neglect.
- All these factors continue to place residents as risk for continued nursing home abuse and neglect.
The health department’s response to the report
According to an official statement, ADHS interim director Don Herrington did not disagree with the report’s findings and vowed that the department would do better moving forward. He shared that the department plans to recruit more staff, improve the nursing home abuse and neglect complaint process, bolster training, conduct an internal investigation, and other necessary steps.
He also highlighted that, while he didn’t disagree with anything in the report, ADHS’ efforts have been focused on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 since 2020. In response, lawmakers, families and caregivers of nursing home residents voiced that many of these issues happened pre-pandemic, are ongoing, and need to be addressed as soon as possible.
It’s important to report nursing home abuse and neglect. It’s a necessary step to make sure that your loved one is getting the care they deserve. That said, families and caregivers of nursing home residents should not wait for a response from the state on a filed report.
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, reach out to Solomon & Relihan for a free consultation about the care your loved one is receiving in their nursing home.
Martin J. Solomon is a principal at Solomon & Relihan PC and has been licensed to practice law in Arizona since 1970. He practices exclusively in the area of personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on nursing home abuse and neglect. Martin is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, a past president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, and has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He is a member of the Nursing Home Litigation Group in the American Association for Justice (formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association), the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform and the Maricopa Elder Abuse Prevent Prevention Alliance.