San Francisco – The Governor’s proposed budget contains cuts that would further cripple California’s already faltering oversight of Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs), increasing the risk of neglect and abuse to more than 150,000 elderly residents. At best, most facilities would be inspected only once every five years.
The proposed budget cuts to the Department of Social Services’ Community Care Licensing Division diminish oversight at a time when assisted living facility care is growing rapidly in California and the care needs of residents are increasing dramatically. Many residents suffer from dementia and other serious health problems that make them highly vulnerable to abuse.
More than 7,770 assisted living facilities for elders are operating in California, an increase of more than 25 percent since 2000. The California Department of Social Services (DSS) licenses these facilities as Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs).
Once a model for other states, California’s inspection system for residential care/assisted living facilities is now one of the weakest in the nation. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, DSS inspected RCFEs twice per year. By the early 90’s, inspections were cut to once per year. In 2004, inspections were slashed to once every five years, with a small number of RCFEs subject to annual inspections. By its own admission, DSS has been unable to comply with the five–year inspection cycle due to lack of resources.
“Inspecting RCFEs once every five years or less is a recipe for neglect and abuse,” said Patricia McGinnis, CANHR’s executive director. “Care standards and residents’ rights become virtually meaningless when inspections are so rare. Issuing a license under these conditions deceives consumers who assume the state is conducting regular inspections or offering oversight and protection to residents.”
The proposed budget maintains the inadequate five–year inspection cycle, and also cuts the number of RCFEs that are randomly selected for annual inspections by more than half. Currently, 30 percent of RCFEs are supposed to receive random annual inspections. The proposed budget decreases this level to 14 percent.
An increase in oversight and enforcement is needed now more than ever. The present oversight system does not ensure the basic care and safety of elderly residents. At the very least, each RCFE should be inspected every two years. Facilities with poor compliance histories should be inspected annually or more often.