Sen. Kelly, Sinema and Reps. Gallego, O’Halleran, Rice Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Abuse at Residential Facilities

Today, Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema introduced the Preventing Abuse and Neglect of Vulnerable Americans Act, legislation aimed at improving the quality of care for residents living at Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IIDs). Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), and Tom Rice (R-SC) introduced companion legislation in the House. 

“Arizona has seen the consequences of neglect and abuse right here at home. What happened at Hacienda was unacceptable,” said Senator Kelly. “No one should ever have to worry about the quality of care provided at a licensed facility. Our bill will increase accountability and transparency so facilities and families have the information needed to make informed, safe decisions about who to hire and where to get care.” 

“We’re working to prevent the abuse and neglect of our most vulnerable, improve trust, and allow family members to make better-informed decisions about the care of their loved ones by increasing public transparency and accountability of intermediate care facilities,” said Senator Sinema.

“Like many of my constituents, I remember my horror when the story broke in 2019 of the horrible abuse suffered by a woman living at the Hacienda ICF/IID in my district. In response to that tragedy, I worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, providers, and the disability advocacy community to increase transparency and prevent abuse and neglect like this from happening again,” said Rep. Gallego. “I am proud to reintroduce this legislation at a time when the pandemic has underscored the need to safeguard the safety, dignity, and human rights of the most vulnerable members of our community. I look forward to continuing that work and seeing this bill signed into law.”

“The crime committed at Hacienda Healthcare was heinous and completely unacceptable,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “This important bill 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.”

“As Americans, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable, especially people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Rep. Rice. “This bipartisan bill will ensure those living in assisted care facilities receive the same quality care as nursing home facilities and other long-term care programs. I hope Congress acts quickly to put these necessary protection measures in place to prevent actions that threaten the safety of individuals living with disabilities.”

ICFs/IID are long-term care facilities that serve individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are often non-ambulatory, have seizure disorders, behavioral disorders, mental illness, or other medical conditions. This legislation ensures that quality-of-care information resulting from surveys at ICF/IIDs, including non-compliance that endangers individuals receiving care, must be publicly available on a website, similar to how these are currently displayed for nursing home facilities. It also allows ICF/IIDs and other health care providers to run employee background checks through the National Practitioner Data Bank.

The bill also establishes an Advisory Council consisting of members of the disability community, family members of individuals with disabilities, states, and providers to make recommendations to Congress on steps that ICF/IIDs, States, or the Federal Government may take to prevent abuse and neglect as well as improve quality of care at ICF/IIDs.

The bill is also endorsed by The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy, National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, Autistic Self Advocacy Network), and the American Network of Community Options and Resources. The original bill was prompted by an incident on December 29, 2019, when a severely disabled woman gave birth to a child at the Hacienda ICF/IID in Phoenix, Arizona. Facility staff was not aware of her pregnancy until she went into labor.