Our View of the Legislature: ALFs

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The Senate committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services heard two bills this morning on Assisted Living Facilities. There are 570 Assisted Living Facilities in Virginia. The quality of services in ALFs in Virginia can vary dramatically from one facility to the next. An ALF can be quite small, serving a dozen or fewer people, or quite large, serving several hundred people.  Many are private pay; some take auxiliary grants. (Auxiliary Grants are funds administered by the state to supplement social security payments in some limited living situations. Historically, Virginia allowed supplemental grants only in large institutional settings — Assisted Living Facilities. In recent years, the Commonwealth expanded the program to allow for supplemental payments in permanent supportive housing, a more integrated living arrangement.

This morning in Senate Rehab, the committee endorsed SB 1221 (Obenshain), which requires assisted living facilities to have liability insurance. Senator Obenshain told a story about outrageous conduct by an ALF in his district, where the owner physically dragged a woman to her room because she refused to eat her dinner. The owner left her laying on the floor, with a broken hip, all night long. In the course of representing the family in legal action, Senator Obenshain discovered that ALFs are not required to have liability insurance. Our state regulations simply state that if they do have insurance, they must have a minimum of $500,000 in coverage. His bill would establish the development of regulations that require all ALFs to have liability insurance. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration

Also, this morning, Senator Mason’s SB 1508 was approved. That bill extends the length of a provisional license for an ALF from six months to one year. The Senator claimed this was necessary because of staff shortages. The full Senate will now consider that proposal.

Related to Assisted Living Facilities, the legislature is considering two identical bills to further expand the auxiliary grant program so that the grants can be used in more integrated environments than institutional ALFs.

HB 1906 (Hope) and SB 1269 (Edwards) will allow the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to provide auxiliary grants to people residing in independent community living. Under the bills, “independent community living” means a housing setting in which individual lives and receives necessary community-based services to assist with activities of daily living, including activities of daily living, in the least restrictive and most integrated setting practicable. Both bills have a re-enactment clause, stating that they will not become effective unless the next legislature passes the bill again. The bills ask the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services to develop a plan to implement the new service and to ascertain whether it is permissible within Social Security rules. The Senate bill has passed and will now go to the House. The House version passed in the committee on Health Welfare, and Institutions but was tabled in House Appropriations. The fate of this effort will be decided in the budget, with the debate beginning in the next few days.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is available to educate policymakers about the potential impact of legislative proposals. Please let us know of any issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at ga@dlcv.org or info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.