The governor and other officials in Georgia are considering regulatory changes that would affect assisted living providers in the state after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution series reported that there were more than 600 allegations of neglect and 90 of abuse by caregivers in the past four years.

Organizations representing providers told the newspaper they are open to some changes, although they believe the newspaper articles should have included more positive information about the industry.

“These reports highlight serious issues involving care for aging adults, and we look forward to working with the Department of Community Health, state leaders, and local partners to review the current framework and identify areas for improvement,” Cody Hall, press secretary for Gov. Brian Kemp, told the media outlet.

Some state legislators and officials already have ideas.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R), for instance, said she “wants to look at high staffing ratios at facilities, adding more state inspectors and other changes.”

State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R), who chairs the state House Human Relations & Aging Committee, said he wants legislators to do “anything in our power” to help protect vulnerable older adults, the newspaper reported.

Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, said the state should increase fines against facilities that violate care standards. Facilities can face a $601 fine in first-offense cases involving harm and death, the newspaper reported.

The council also is calling for changes to staffing ratios, more inspectors, more frequent inspections and posting of inspection findings that are in plain language so that consumers can understand them and “detect potential trends.”

“Annual reporting could include: the top five complaints by category, total number of complaints, how many complaints resulted in fines or sanctions and how many fines were paid or collected,” Johnson wrote in an opinion piece.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R), a physician and member of the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said “the senior living industry also needs to take a ‘serious, introspective look’ at itself and find ways to improve care,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia Senior Living Association said in a statement to the newspaper that it would support more state inspectors, “robust, unannounced inspection efforts,” more training for workers, best practices to reduce falls and improve care for residents living with dementia, and enhanced reporting requirements in cases of suspected crimes and abuse.

Georgia Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Tony Marshall told the media outlet that the association supports improved education for providers about the reporting requirements related to the abuse, neglect and exploitation of residents.

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