State responding to nursing home abuse

State officials are acting in a refreshingly responsibly way to reports that serious allegations of abuse and neglect in nursing homes have often fallen through administrative cracks: They're sealing the cracks.

Type A citations are issued to nursing homes when abuse and neglect result in the death or serious injury of a patient.

Throughout the summer, a series of Herald-Leader stories by reporters Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Beth Musgrave detailed the lax follow-up on these citations.

Only seven of 107 Type A citations studied resulted in prosecutions. Although the cabinet responsible for the citations said it sent all Type A's to the Office of the Attorney General to review, the AG's office said it never received at least five of those citations issued during a three-year period. Records of citations were not easily accessible by the public.

Responding to the articles, Gov. Steve Beshear asked Janie Miller, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, to review state policies regarding abuse and neglect in nursing homes. The recommendations that resulted are the basis for changes reported last week.

The Cabinet's inspector general, Mary Begley, said her office, which issues the Type A citations, has established regular meetings to keep better track of them. It is also increasing training of nursing home regulators and developing a standardized form for reporting abuse and neglect.

OIG employees are also meeting regularly with staff from the attorney general's office and the Department of Community Based Services, another division of the cabinet that investigates elder-abuse cases.

Finally, the cabinet also has put all nursing home Type A citations on its Web site, making it easier for the public to find information about nursing homes.

These commonsense moves should increase the flow of information about charges of serious abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assure that follow-up, including prosecution when appropriate, doesn't fall by the wayside.