Communication is “the best way to make a difference” and address issues facing the assisted living industry, a state legislator told those attending a recent forum convened by the Florida Assisted Living Association.

“You need to communicate, because legislators can’t help if they don’t know,” state Rep. Randall “Randy” Scott Maggard (R) told attendees at a Sept. 6 event in Tampa, according to an account shared by the association. The gathering was one of two legislative forums held by FALA this month to enable lawmakers and industry representatives to exchange ideas about pressing issues in senior living.

One issue, according to FALA CEO Bijou Ikli, is that “[d]ue to insufficient funding, there are fewer and fewer assisted living facilities willing and able to accept Medicaid residents.”

“Each year, the demand for care and services increases, and the supply and access to care do not. Low income, frail and disabled elderly Floridians deserve an acceptable quality of life and access to care and services,” she continued. Ikli became CEO of the organization June 1, succeeding Veronica Catoe, who had served in the role since 2019.

Also participating in the Tampa event were FALA Board Secretary Pascal Bergeron; FALA officers Donna Damiani, Luis E. Collazo and Brooke Britton; FALA Board member Barbara Galindo; FALA Executive Director of Education and Regulatory Support Alberta Granger; industry lobbyist Jennifer Green of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee; and Sens. Darryl Ervin Rouson (D) and Sen. Ed Hooper (R).

“Our aging population in Florida has recognized the value of assisted living and as a result, assisted living is now the fastest-growing and most preferred option for long term care among seniors,” Ikli said. “Unfortunately, assisted living is often misunderstood and has been largely overlooked as a valuable member of the healthcare continuum and viable solution to our long-term care crisis.”

FALA’s legislative priorities for the coming year, she said, include advocating for an increase in the personal needs allowance for residents who are Medicaid beneficiaries, an increase in reimbursement rates for Medicaid assistive care services and long-term care services, and an overhaul of Florida’s statewide Medicaid managed care long-term care wait list.

The current wait list for assisted living in Florida is an “abomination,” state Rep. Dean Black (R) said at a Sept. 13 forum in Jacksonville, FL, according to an account by FALA. 

“Give me a bill to support and I will support it — or I will write it,” he said. “I want to continue to learn from you all. When I go and argue on your behalf, I want to know exactly what I’m talking about.”

In addition to participation by Black, the Jacksonville event included a panel discussion with Jamie Glavich, former FALA Board chair and owner/operator of Almost Home and Almost Home Beaches in Jacksonville; Nina Corsi, regional director of operations for SenCare Management/Grand Villa Communities; Wanda Law, owner/operator of Hidden Oaks in Jennings, FL; and Robert Carmines, owner/operator of Riverside Cottages in St. Augustine, FL.