Inspectors uncover dangers at Georgia facilities for vulnerable adults

Federal inspectors found unsafe conditions at places in Georgia that care for adults who are elderly or disabled, according to a newly released audit.

Risks at these facilities ranged from potential exposure to toxic chemicals to facilities failing to give criminal background checks to their staff who care for vulnerable adults. The findings were unearthed as part of a review done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the summer.

“Providers did not always meet the needs of program participants or maintain compliance with state requirements,” the auditors said. “As a result, vulnerable adults were at risk in numerous instances.”

Who was audited, and why? Adult Day Health Care Services, which are licensed by the state and operate under 24 hours per day. These places offer individualized services to keep participants in their own homes and out of institutions.

The Office of the Inspector General, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, picked 20 providers out of roughly 100 across Georgia. Inspectors then showed up for unannounced visits in July 2022.

The audit looks at just a narrow set of services for people aged 65 and older, as well as certain people with disabilities. It’s part of a broader inspection of adult day services, and inspectors have found violations in other states across the nation.

The findings: Among the 20 providers audited, 19 did not comply with one or more health or safety requirements. Among the problems were unclean conditions in five facilities, exposed electrical wiring in five facilities, and toxic chemicals in unlocked areas in four facilities.

Ten of the providers didn’t conduct criminal background checks or nurse aide registry checks on staff prior to giving them a job, and three didn’t have licensed medical personnel on staff. One provider was using a driver with an expired driver’s license.

What’s more, the audit found the state failed to identify these problems in their own inspections of these places.

Georgia’s response: Georgia’s Department of Community Health oversees these providers. Caylee Noggle, commissioner of DCH, said in response to the audit that her agency works hard to ensure adult day services are provided in a “safe and homelike environment.”

“We take the findings of this audit seriously and will work to ensure corrections are made and compliance is maintained,” Noggle said, but added they do not think the number of violations is representative of the state’s services as a whole.

A DCH spokesperson said in a statement that the department prioritized direct care facilities during the pandemic, and agree that oversight of programs operating through telehealth is also important to support Georgia’s most vulnerable residents.

The federal government is asking that DCH makes sure these problems are remedied, and that the state improves its oversight of providers.

Read it for yourself: Want to take a deeper look? The 30-page audit, which includes the state’s response, can be found here.