San Diego County OKs rating system for disabled and elderly homes

This article first appeared in the U-T San Diego.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to spend up to $250,000 over the next two years to set up a voluntary rating system for assisted living homes across San Diego County.

The action creates a six-month pilot project to develop a website that will alert consumers to licensing histories and provide other information about the homes.

“We need to give families the solid information they need to guide them on this journey,” said Supervisor Greg Cox, who proposed the ratings system with board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. “What we have here today is a first step toward making this voluntary ratings system a reality.”

The ratings system was among several proposals made in response to the U-T San Diego series “Deadly Neglect,” published last year in conjunction with the CHCF Center for Health Reporting.

County officials also restored six positions in their longterm care ombudsman program and created a special unit in the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute crimes against vulnerable seniors.

The “Deadly Neglect” series documented 27 deaths and scores of medication errors inside San Diego County assisted living homes, along with dangerous lapses in oversight by state licensing regulators.

In addition to the county reaction, the U-T San Diego stories and reports about problems inside assisted living homes across California last year prompted a spate of state laws aimed at protecting residents.

Jacob pointed out that state officials are responsible for regulating the homes, and urged lawmakers to spend more money overseeing the homes. In the meantime, she said, the county will do what it can.

“Our goal is to put a spotlight on the best facilities so families can find a home they can trust for their loved ones,” she said. “Many families today aren’t even sure where to start their search for quality care, but a rating system will help steer them in the right direction.”

Officials expect to solicit bids by December and launch the ratings system next year.

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