George Breen, a Member of the Firm in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice in the Washington, D.C. office, was quoted in an article about how the Elder Justice Act pushes long-term care facilities to focus on training and communication.

The article discussed how the Elder Justice Act authorizes more than $100 million in grants over the next four years to long-term care facilities for staff training and an long-term care ombudsman program. As a result, facility managers now must adhere to challenging new compliance measures for their employees and contractors if they wish to avoid stiff penalties provided for in the new law.

Under the new law, employees become "individually covered," and are responsible for reporting abusive situations upon "reasonable suspicion," said Breen. He continued to state that these terms leave facilities swimming in a gray area. What constitutes reasonable? "Unless it's defined under state law, it becomes difficult to identify situations that facilities are likely to report," he said.

While state regulation has yet to be determined, there are steps facilities should be taking now to demonstrate proactive implementation of the new law. Breen recommended four specific actions: train employees and contractors, establish clear communication channels, increase diligence for prospective employees, and identify local law enforcement.

The biggest challenge facilities face now is figuring out how the existing laws within their respective states correlate with the new federal law, Breen told Aging News Alert. "Under the new law, facilities are going to have to look at it both on a state and federal level," he said.

The new healthcare law, Breen noted, gives the government several options to exclude facilities without going through a formal process. "Monetary penalties alone can put a facility out of business," he said.

In the end, Breen said, the hope is that the government will exercise discretion while enforcing the new law. He warns, "there's still a risk that an employee doesn't report in a compliant. Facilities should be prepared to challenge these penalties. That's where we will see modification of the law."

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