FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Department of Justice Launches 10 Regional Elder Justice Task Forces
Today, the Department of Justice announced the launch of 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces. These teams will bring together federal, state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and agencies that provide services to the elderly, to coordinate and enhance efforts to pursue nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.
“Millions of seniors count on nursing homes to provide them with quality care and to treat them with dignity and respect when they are most vulnerable,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “Yet, all too often we have found nursing home owners or operators who put their own economic gain before the needs of their residents. These task forces will help ensure that we are working closely with all relevant parties to protect the elderly.”
The Elder Justice Task Forces will include representatives from the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, state Medicaid Fraud Control Units, state and local prosecutors' offices, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), state Adult Protective Services agencies, Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs and law enforcement.
“The Department of Justice has a long history of holding nursing homes and long-term care providers accountable when they fail to provide their Medicare and Medicaid residents with even the most basic nursing services to which they were entitled,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division. “By bringing everyone to the table, we will be able to more effectively and quickly pursue nursing homes that are jeopardizing the health and well-being of their residents.”
The 10 Elder Justice Task Forces will be launched in the following Districts: Northern District of California, Northern District of Georgia, District of Kansas, Western District of Kentucky, Northern District of Iowa, District of Maryland, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Tennessee and the Western District of Washington.
“We believe that by actively participating in the Elder Justice Task Forces announced today through joint investigations, sharing information and regular meetings; we will strengthen our efforts nationally to protect the most vulnerable of our population who reside in our nursing homes and other care facilities,” said Keesha Mitchell, President of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and the Director of the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
“The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) continues to pursue nursing home operators who provide potentially harmful care to residents who are often unable to protect themselves,” said Chief Counsel to the Inspector General Gregory Demske of HHS. “Creating these task forces sends a message to those in charge of caring for these beneficiaries that grossly substandard care will not be tolerated.”
“The Administration for Community Living was created to help ensure that older adults and people with disabilities are able to live the lives they want, with the people they choose, fully participating in their communities,” said Becky Kurtz, Director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs at the Administration for Community Living. “Our mission includes supporting their basic right to live with dignity, free from abuse. We appreciate the Department of Justice's leadership on this important initiative and applaud its long-standing commitment to elder justice efforts.”
“Our most vulnerable citizens deserve the highest quality care and attention,” said Executive Director Kathleen Quinn of the National Adult Protective Services Association. “This initiative will help insure that long-term care facilities provide it. The Department of Justice is to be commended for this, and indeed all its efforts, to protect the millions of elder abuse victims in this country.”
The Elder Justice Task Forces reflect the department's larger strategy and commitment to protecting our nation's seniors, spearheaded by the department's Elder Justice Initiative. The Elder Justice Initiative coordinates and supports the Department's law enforcement efforts and policy activities on elder justice issues. It plays an integral role in the department's investigative and enforcement efforts against nursing homes and other long-term care entities that deliver grossly substandard care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The Elder Justice Initiative will be providing litigation support and training to the Elder Justice Task Forces. Learn more about the Justice Department's Elder Justice Initiative at http://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer Delivers Remarks on Elder Justice Task Force Roll Out
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. I am pleased to be joined by Keesha Mitchell, President of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and Director of the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; Gregory Demske, Chief Counsel to the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services; Becky Kurtz, Director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman with the Administration on Community Living; Kathleen Quinn, Executive Director of the National Adult Protective Services Association and many other federal, state, and local partners here in the room and on the phone.
Today we are announcing the launch of 10 Elder Justice Task Forces. These regional teams will bring together federal, state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and agencies that provide services to the elderly, for the purpose of coordinating and enhancing efforts to identify and bring to justice nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents. These Task Forces are built on the model of cooperation and collaboration among multi-disciplinary teams currently at work in several Districts. Protecting our nation's seniors is one of the department's highest priorities, and we are fortunate to have dedicated partners committed to holding bad actors in the nursing home and long-term care industry accountable for their treatment of the elderly.
The Department of Justice has not hesitated to bring actions against nursing home operators who failed to provide Medicare and Medicaid nursing home residents with the services to which they are entitled. For example, in 2014, the United States and eight states settled with Extendicare Health Services Inc., to resolve allegations which included that it had billed Medicare and Medicaid while failing to have a sufficient number of skilled nurses to care adequately for its residents, failing to provide adequate catheter care to some of its residents and failing to follow the appropriate protocols to prevent pressure ulcers and resident falls. In addition to paying back $38 million to the taxpayers, Extendicare entered into a five-year company-wide Corporate Integrity Agreement that required it to hire an Independent Quality Monitor to oversee the quality of its skilled nursing care, among other things. The department worked closely with other agencies and state governments to reach this resolution, and it illustrates just what can be accomplished when cross-government resources are harnessed in a coordinated fashion. I would like to commend our state partner, Keesha Mitchell, for the efforts of the Medicaid Fraud Control Units in working tirelessly with the department to achieve this successful result.
The 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces will build and expand on this model of federal-state cooperation. The Elder Justice Task Forces will include representatives from the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, state Medicaid Fraud Control Units, state and local prosecutors' offices, the Department of Health and Human Services, state Adult Protective Service agencies, Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs and law enforcement. By assembling these organizations and entities on a regular basis and building strong lines of communication, we expect to share information and concerns much more quickly and to take action in a more coordinated and timely manner. The multidisciplinary nature of the task forces will assist in identifying nursing facilities that provide grossly substandard care, drawing on the various team members' access to an array of information and knowledge in the regions and communities where the nursing facilities operate.
In addition, bringing all of these entities together will provide more tools to address complaints about nursing home or other long term care providers. Having federal, state and local agencies working together will allow the task forces to find the most effective response for each particular situation.
The Elder Justice Task Forces will be launched in 10 districts, including the Northern District of California, Northern District of Georgia, District of Kansas, Western District of Kentucky, Northern District of Iowa, District of Maryland, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Tennessee and the Western District of Washington.
I want to thank all of those partners here today who have committed and will commit time and resources to protecting our nation's seniors through these task forces. With that, I am happy to introduce Keesha Mitchell, President of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, who will describe the role of Medicaid Fraud Control Units in the Task Forces.