Three-strike approach wanted to protect nursing home residents

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Department of Aging and Disability Services (KXAN File Photo)
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Department of Aging and Disability Services (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A Central Texas lawmaker wants new protections for your elderly loved ones. Under the proposed law, nursing homes that get three strikes would be shut down.

The bill filed Thursday by Sen. Charles Schwertner of Georgetown would require the Department of Aging and Disability Services to revoke the license of any nursing facility with three or more serious health and safety violations. Those violations are those that “have caused, or are likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment, or death.”

Over the past few months, KXAN has investigated how the state looks into elder abuse. The investigation uncovered the state was not doing its job in thousands of cases.

Despite being required by law to report allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation to law enforcement within 24 hours, we found the state failed to do so in more than 1,500 instances.

“We did not do a good enough job communicating that obligation out to our staff,” said Jon Weizenbaum, the department’s commissioner. “Once it came to our attention, once your investigation brought it to our attention, we took action.”

As for the proposed three strikes approach, it was one of the recommendation of the legislature’s recent review of the agency.

Lawmakers also want to merge the Department of Aging and Disability Services and four other health and safety agencies into one unit. That will all fall under the Health and Human Services Commission.

But the man in charge of that commission is under fire. Two lawmakers sent out a letter saying Dr. Kyle Janek should step down as Health and Human Services Commissioner.

In recent days there have been reports of mishandled contracts that wasted state money.

Democratic Sen. John Whitmire said in a letter Thursday that Janek is no longer “capable of running this crucially important state agency.”

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