The Miami Herald found that special homes for people with mental illness are often shoddily run, with residents left without critical psychiatric and medical help.
By Carol Marbin Miller, Rob Barry and Michael Sallah
While most assisted-living facilities (ALFs) are designed to care for the elderly — providing help with everyday tasks — Florida licenses facilities like Hillandale to also care for people with severe mental illness. Created a generation ago, the special homes were the state’s answer to providing housing for thousands left in the streets after the historic closings of Florida’s psychiatric institutions.
But The Miami Herald found dozens of the homes are so poorly run that residents are forced to languish without crucial needs — including medication and psychiatric help — leaving their care to police and rescue workers.
The Herald’s examination of Florida’s 1,083 homes for people with mental illness, including a review of state inspection reports, police investigations, court records and interviews with mental health experts, found:
• Regulators find nearly twice the rate of abuse and neglect at the special homes, including caretakers beating and sexually molesting residents.
• State agents have caught nearly 100 homes using illegal restraints since 2002 — including doping residents with tranquilizers without doctor’s approval, tying them with ropes and locking them in isolation rooms — only to catch them doing it again.
• Florida’s requirements to run a home for people with mental illnesses are among the lowest in the nation: a high school diploma and 26 hours of training — less than the state requirements for barbers, cosmetologists and auctioneers.
• Caretakers are routinely caught intoxicated, asleep and even abandoning their posts entirely — often with severe consequences to residents, but rarely to the operators.