Rose Lundy earns recognition from Report for America for residential care facility investigation

The investigation found Maine’s state health department cited residential care facilities for dozens of resident rights violations and hundreds of other deficiencies from 2020 to 2022 — but it imposed only one fine.
a slide presentation that features the logo for Report for America with the presentation title of "local news awards".
Report for America places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

An investigation by Maine Monitor public health reporter Rose Lundy earned first place in the enterprise or investigative single story category during Report for America’s Local News Awards, which were announced earlier this week.

The story, Maine rarely sanctions residential care facilities even after severe abuse or neglect incidents, was co-published with ProPublica as part of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. 

An investigation by The Maine Monitor and ProPublica found that Maine’s health department rarely imposes fines or issues conditional licenses against the state’s roughly 190 largest residential care facilities, classified as Level IV, which provide less medical care than nursing homes but offer more homelike assisted living alternatives for older Mainers.

From 2020 to 2022, the health department issued “statements of deficiencies” against these facilities for 59 resident rights violations and about 650 additional violations — involving anything from medication and record-keeping errors to unsanitary conditions and missed mandatory trainings.

Despite these violations, however, it imposed a fine only once: a $265 penalty against a facility for failing to comply with background check rules for hiring employees. And it issued four conditional licenses: three in response to administrative or technical violations and one in response to a variety of issues, including a violation of a resident’s privacy rights. 

Long-term care advocates say the health department is not doing enough to crack down on facilities, as opposed to individuals, and is allowing poor conditions to persist for vulnerable residents. A review by The Monitor and ProPublica of state inspection records from 2020 to 2022 shows that the health department employed the lowest intervention possible, even for some of the most serious abuse and neglect incidents. 

From 2020 to 2022, the state received more than 550 reports of abuse and neglect incidents from Level IV facilities, according to the Monitor and ProPublica analysis. Of those, 342 cases involved residents abusing other residents, 102 cases involved “elopement,” in which residents wandered away unsupervised, and 61 cases involved a staff member abusing a resident.

The analysis also showed that the health department did not step up its enforcement even when individual facilities repeatedly reported similar issues.

Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.


The Maine Monitor

The Maine Monitor is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. Our team of investigative journalists use data- and document-based reporting to produce stories that have an impact.
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