O’Halleran, Gallego, McSally and Sinema Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Abuse at Residential Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

February 13, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON– Today, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-02), Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the Preventing Abuse and Neglect of Vulnerable Americans Act in order to improve quality of care for residents living at Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs) for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (IIDs).

Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities are long-term care facilities that serve individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are often non-ambulatory, have seizure disorders, behavioral problems, mental illness, or other medical conditions.

The legislation ensures that Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities must comply with the same transparency and accountability requirements with which nursing home facilities are required to comply. It also allows Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and other health care providers to run employee background checks through the National Practitioner Data Bank. Lastly, it establishes an Advisory Council to make recommendations to Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on what can be done to prevent abuse and neglect, as well as improve quality of care at Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.

On December 29, 2019, a severely disabled woman gave birth to a child at the Hacienda Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities in Phoenix, Arizona. Facility staff were not aware of her pregnancy until she went into labor.

“The crime committed at Hacienda Healthcare last year was horrific and unacceptable,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran, member of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “I am proud to help introduce this important bill that will work to eradicate this kind of neglect and abuse of our most vulnerable and ensure care centers like Hacienda are held accountable to those they serve.”

“Words cannot describe how disturbing and shocking the incident at Hacienda was. It reminds us of our solemn responsibility to safeguard the human rights and dignity of every person with severe disabilities,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego. “This legislation brings together Republicans, Democrats, ICFs/IID, and the disability advocacy community to increase transparency and help prevent abuse and neglect at places that provide care and support for some of our nation’s most vulnerable.”

“Despicable abuse in residential care facilities, particularly those that care for vulnerable patients, should never take place again anywhere,” said Sen. Martha McSally. “Following the appalling instances at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix, members of the Arizona delegation are partnering together to introduce bicameral, bipartisan legislation to increase transparency and accountability at these facilities and I am glad to lead the effort in the Senate.”

“Our bipartisan legislation increases transparency and ensures last year’s horrifying incidents at Hacienda HealthCare never happen again,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

The American Health Care Association, which has ICF/IID members, endorsed the bill. The bill was also endorsed by The Arc of Arizona, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Our members are, and have been, committed to preventing abuse and neglect,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association. “The safety of individuals in our facilities is our number one priority. This legislation would help ensure that we have more tools and resources available to prevent actions that jeopardize the privacy, dignity and safety of individuals with disabilities.”

“This legislation represents a significant step forward in the protection of vulnerable adults across the U.S. For too long, the systems meant to provide care and support for ICF/ID residents have been riddled with inconsistencies and loopholes, allowing potential abusers to become caregivers for the most vulnerable citizens of this nation,” said Jon Meyers, Executive Director of The Arc of Arizona. “All the while, families and advocates have faced confusing, frustrating, and often contradictory processes to seek redress when abuse or neglect occurs. By ensuring greater transparency and increased accountability of care facilities and those they employ, the Preventing Abuse and Neglect of Vulnerable Americans Act offers families greater assurance their loved ones are receiving safe, adequate, and appropriate care in the ICF/ID environment.”

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