Gov. Doug Ducey is not messing around.
After a Phoenix healthcare facility was found to have not formally reached an agreement with an outside company to oversee its operations, Arizona’s governor has signed an executive order calling for the formation of a group to help create training geared towards preventing the abuse of people with disabilities.
Mr. Ducey signed the order Wednesday morning in efforts to improve protection of vulnerable individuals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, in 2015 the rate of violent victimization against persons with disabilities (29.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older) was 2.5 times higher than the rate for persons without disabilities (11.8).
As part of Mr. Ducey’s order, a group including the Arizona’s Health Care Cost Containment System, the departments of Health Services and Economic Security, and disabilities advocates will review “current protocols” and develop “training on preventing abuse and neglect, recognizing the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect, and reporting abuse and neglect for both providers for people with disabilities and for parents and guardians.”
The group will also ensure state-funded care facilities of disabled patients require staff, contractors and vendors who have direct interactions with disabled patients to undergo annual training.
“Right now the trainings mentioned are limited to facilities for individuals with disabilities,” Patrick Ptak, communications director for the governor’s office, told the Daily News-Sun. “I cannot speak to a specific facility because I do not know if they provide services to these individuals.
“That being said, the working group created through the executive order will include a subgroup on facilities for the elderly to see what improvements can be made there as well.”
Prominent signage regarding how to report abuse will also be a requirement at facilities.
The agencies involved will be required to submit a report of recommendations by Nov. 1.
“The health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens is a top priority for the Arizona Department of Health Services,” Public Information Officer Nicole Capone stated in an email to the DNS. “ADHS will immediately work with AHCCCS and DES to implement the protective measures Governor Ducey outlined in his executive order. These additional protective measures will enhance the rules and regulations that are already in place to protect the safety of patients in facilities statewide.”
Heidi Capriotti, AHCCCS media relations officer, said the agencies involved will convene a work group within the next month that will assist in meeting the directives of the order.
The order comes after allegations that a licensed practitioner nurse sexually assaulted a woman in an incapacitated state at Hacienda Healthcare in south Phoenix.
The nurse, Nathan Sutherland, was arrested as a result of a month of investigation into who assaulted the woman after she unexpectedly gave birth to a child Dec. 29.
Phoenix police and other authorities gathered DNA evidence linking Mr. Sutherland to the child.
Since the birth, Hacienda’s CEO has resigned, an arrest has been made, and several reviews of the facility’s performance are underway.
Mr. Ducey has also called on Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to prosecute Hacienda for offenses connected to the sexual assault and other alleged actions.
Penalties may include board members relinquishing their interests in the facility.
“Hacienda announced publicly that they were contracting with Benchmark, an Indiana company,” Mr. Ducey stated in a letter to Mr. Brnovich.
“It has come to my attention over the weekend that Hacienda claims it cannot afford the cost of Benchmark, with anticipated costs of $500,000, even though according to tax documents, it paid the prior CEO an almost $600,000 salary. These facts do not add up.”
According to the Associated Press, state lawmakers are considering a bill to require intermediate care facilities like Hacienda to apply for a state license, reversing a decision more than 20 years ago to drop state regulation of them.
The 11 intermediate care facilities in the state would also have to conduct background checks of employees who care for clients.