September 8, 2023 – At a Legislative Forum held at the historic Tampa Theater on Wednesday, September 6, Florida legislators Sen. Darryl Ervin Rouson (D) St. Petersburg (District 16), Sen. Ed Hooper (R) Clearwater, (District 21), and Rep. Randall “Randy” Scott Maggard (R) Dade City (District 54) exchanged ideas with professionals from Florida’s assisted living and senior care industries, members of whom were both onstage and in the audience.
The event was put on by the Florida Assisted Living Association (FALA). Features of the event were an opening presentation by FALA CEO Bijou Ikli and FALA Board Secretary Pascal Bergeron on the status of assisted living in Florida (including what Ms. Ikli describes as the “LTC (Long-Term Care) Crisis” in Florida and the role of FALA in addressing these pressing issues; presentations and a panel discussion featuring FALA officers Donna Damiani, Luis E.
Collazo, and Brooke Britton, FALA Board Member Barbara Galindo, FALA’s Executive Director of Education and Regulatory Support, Alberta Granger, and industry lobbyist Jennifer Green of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee LLC; followed by a Legislative Roundtable featuring the three above named Florida elected officials. “Due to insufficient funding, there are fewer and fewer Assisted Living Facilities willing and able to accept Medicaid residents,” Ikli explained; “each year the demand for care and services increases and the supply and access to care do not.
Low income, frail, and disabled elderly Floridians deserve an acceptable quality of life and access to care and services,” she continued, “and it is the obligation of our entire community to ensure they receive it.” Sen. Hooper added that “(assisted living providers) deserve wings – they are taking care of our moms and dads.” Applauding the importance of the FALA event, Rep.
Maggard advised attendees that “Communication is the best way to make a difference. You need to communicate because legislators can’t help if they don’t know.” Sen. Rouson inspired the audience when he stressed from the stage that “this is not a Republican problem or a Democrat problem, but a human problem,” and “one that any legislator would be proud to support.” He ended the session on a high note filled with optimism, saying that he’s “fired up!” and ready to get to work on the issues. Ikli outlined the platform of FALA’s legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative session, the three pillars of which are an increase in the Personal Needs Allowance for Medicaid assisted living residents (which now stands at as little as $54 – $70 a month); increased reimbursement rates for Medicaid Assistive Care Services (ACS) and Long-Term Care services; and an overhaul of Florida’s Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) Long-Term Care (LTC) wait-list. Accounts from the stage of “real world” stories of elderly Floridians were rife with sobering details, including Brooke Britton telling of a retired schoolteacher who has lived at her family-owned assisted living facility for over 20 years, but has now run out of retirement savings and is relegated to wait-list purgatory; the story of a veteran who sustained traumatic brain injury in the line of duty and now faces financial hardship and uncertainty; and an account from Donna Damiani of a lady who was referred to her assisted living facility while living in her car with her son – and the son was taking her Social Security check.
These are all real elderly Floridians who just need a decent place to live where they can be cared for. The Tampa event on Sep. 6 represented a bolder, more passionately humanistic approach to advocacy for the assisted living industry and its senior Floridian residents by FALA under Ms. Ikli, who just assumed the Association’s CEO role on June 1, 2023. “Our aging population in Florida has recognized the value of assisted living and as a result, assisted living is now the fastest growing and most preferred option for long term care among seniors,” Ikli added.
“Unfortunately, assisted living is often misunderstood and has been largely overlooked as a valuable member of the healthcare continuum and viable solution to our long-term care crisis.” She said that the Tampa Legislative Forum aimed in part at shedding light on these issues, as well as specifying the current challenges and needs of assisted living providers, our most vulnerable residents, and the community with our state legislators. About FALA (Florida Assisted Living Association) The Florida Assisted Living Association is the longest established assisted living association in the state.
It has been providing advocacy, education, and regulatory support for its members for over 30 years. Today, FALA is the largest state association representing nearly 500 assisted living facilities and adult family care homes and nearly 300 associate members who provide products and services to assisted living providers.
For more information, please visit fala.org.