The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is assembling 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces that will target skilled care facilities that provide substandard care to residents. The DOJ’s task forces consist of members from U.S. Attorney’s offices, Medicaid fraud units, state and local prosecutor offices, adult protective services offices, ombudsman programs, law enforcement units and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
On March 30, 2016, the DOJ announced the formation of these task forces as part of a new initiative to investigate nursing homes and other elder care facilities. The inaugural task forces will be launched in California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington. According to Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery, the driving force behind the task force initiative is the need to protect the elderly from nursing home owners and operators who put their economic gain before residents’ care. The task forces are charged with pursuing skilled care facilities that adversely affect residents’ health.
In light of this new DOJ initiative, long term care facility owners and operators should respond promptly to residents’ and family members’ complaints and identify opportunities for improving the quality of care. Task force inquiries must be taken seriously and responses crafted with surgical precision. Facility owners and operators must be accurate in their word choice and mindful of regulatory compliance obligations mandated by federal funding sources. This balancing act requires professional guidance. Facilities should also be wary of over-zealous advocacy efforts that may occur.