Knoxville, Tenn. – U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey joined Attorney General William P. Barr in announcing the Department of Justice’s National Nursing Home Initiative, which will coordinate and enhance civil and criminal efforts to pursue nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.
The National Nursing Home Initiative focuses on some of the worst nursing homes around the country and the Department has already initiated investigations into approximately thirty individual nursing facilities in nine states as part of this effort.
“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 Attorney General William P. Barr. “Yet, all too often, we have found nursing home owners or operators who put profits over patients, leading to instances of gross abuse and neglect. This national initiative will bring to justice those owners and operators who have profited at the expense of their residents, and help to ensure residents receive the care to which they are entitled.”
“Protecting seniors is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee”, said U.S. Attorney Overbey. “Many senior citizens experience circumstances that make them particularly vulnerable to fraud and abuse. Victimization of our elderly citizens, by either abuse or financial exploitation, is inexcusable and will result in the prosecution of anyone who commits these crimes. The U.S. Attorney’s office will continue to coordinate with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to fight elder fraud and abuse throughout our region.”
The department considers a number of factors in identifying the most problematic nursing homes. For example, the department looks for nursing homes that consistently fail to provide adequate nursing staff to care for their residents, fail to adhere to basic protocols of hygiene and infection control, fail to provide their residents with enough food to eat so that they become emaciated and weak, withhold pain medication, or use physical or chemical restraints to restrain or otherwise sedate their residents.
Care failures victimize residents, causing them to suffer in pain and to be exposed to the great indignities. Care failures cause residents to develop pressure sores down to the bone, to lie in their own waste for hours, to starve because they cannot reach the food on their trays and to remain unwashed for weeks at a time. Nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care also force vulnerable elderly residents who cannot leave the facilities to live in filthy and dangerous conditions where there are leaks in the roofs, mold is found growing in facilities, and rodents are found living in residents’ rooms. These are some of the gross actions and the inactions that the department intends to pursue and prosecute.
The National Nursing Home Initiative reflects the department’s larger strategy and commitment to protecting our nation’s seniors, coordinated by the department’s Elder Justice Initiative in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. The Elder Justice Initiative and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are essential to 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 Initiative and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices also support the efforts of state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and other elder justice professionals to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, with the development of training, resources, and information.