California: New law toughens licensure requirements

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Effective Jan. 1, applicants seeking licensure to operate assisted living communities, known as residential care facilities for the elderly, or RCFEs, in California, must disclose their prior ownership of any type of facility in any state, including a history of compliance with applicable laws.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 601 into law on Oct. 8. It also establishes specific suitability requirements for all licensing applicants, requires the state's Department of Social Services to crosscheck applicant information with the Department of Public Health and allows the Department of Social Services to deny or revoke a license for failure to disclose the required information.

According to the nonprofit group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the state formerly had in place very limited suitability requirements or new licensee applicants, and background information on new applicants for RCFE licenses was not crosschecked with information from other licensing agencies.

"AB 601 will provide the Department of Social Services with the information necessary to make more appropriate decisions as to what applicants are suitable to operate RCFEs in California and will also allow consumers to make better informed choices regarding placement in an RCFE," CANHR said in a statement.

The California Assisted Living Association also supported the bill, saying it "would enable [the Community Care Licensing Division of the Department of Social Services] to know more about license applicants, including the applicant's track record in California and other states. The bill also provides for disclosure that lets consumers know who is responsible for the care being delivered to their loved ones."

An impetus for the bill was the widely publicized case of Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley, where 19 residents were left to the care of a part-time cook and janitor in 2013. The owner, according to CANHR, had a previous history of "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in fines owed to the federal and state licensing agencies for deficiencies and citations when she owned four California nursing homes. "Had Community Care Licensing known of her history with the Department of Public Health, her RCFE licenses would not have been approved," CANHR maintains.

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