TEXAS SENATE APPROVES H.B. 1168 REGULATING LODGE HOMES FOR MENTALLY ILL, DISABLED AND ELDERLY TEXANS
May 23, 2007
"In cities across Texas, elderly and people with disabilities are suffering abuse at the hands of landlords who put eight or more in a room, take Social Security checks and give almost nothing in return. This bill addresses that abuse."
Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, www.shapleigh.org
AUSTIN – Today, May 23, the Texas Senate approved H.B. 1168, sponsored by Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso), regulating private lodge homes for mentally ill and disabled and elderly Texans.
"In cities across Texas, elderly and people with disabilities are suffering abuse at the hands of landlords who put eight or more in a room, take Social Security checks and give almost nothing in return," said Senator Shapleigh. "This bill addresses that abuse."
Current law does not regulate private group homes in Texas caring for the 65,000 mentally ill and disabled and elderly in need of quality, safe, supervised housing. The Dallas Morning News recently described conditions in these homes as "mental health slums."
At Agape Place, a licensed care home in Oak Cliff, "[h]uman feces caked the yard and only one bathroom worked when city code inspectors visited in March," reported Barbara Davidson. The report continued,
Some operators are good people trying to help the disadvantaged. But others are predators – as many as half of those in business, some officials and advocates say. Some drive luxury cars, while their residents trade $623 monthly Social Security disability checks for Dickensian squalor and a diet of bologna sandwiches, Ramen noodles and food-pantry handouts. Some have run unlicensed homes for years despite court orders and promises to quit.
Under current law, local governments are singularly the only source of very limited
regulation. That regulation is restricted to residential zoning rules, health and safety codes, and other civic policy ordinances. With the exception of a limited pilot program established by S.B. 6 in the 79th Regular Legislature (2005), there is no regulatory requirements or state agency authority to effectively monitor and enforce adequate safeguards for the estimated 4,000 residential operations throughout the state serving a conservative estimate of 65,000 affected citizens.
With the exception of individually reported and investigated cases of abuse through the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), state agencies currently do not have the authority to require registration, inspection, and oversight or enforcement of such facilities and lack even general investigative authority to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents.
H.B. 1168 expands and makes permanent, statewide, the pilot program, previously
established, for registration, licensing, and oversight of this category of residential homes. The bill requires procedures that would allow other state agencies and appropriate local authorities to participate in the process as well as information sharing for the purpose of protecting citizens who are tenants of these homes.
Additionally, this bill utilizes the fees and any penalties assessed and collected to be used to offset administrative costs and to use the remainder to continue to expand services to elderly or disabled citizens. This bill requires a biennial report to the legislature detailing the program status that may be included as part of the other DADS operational summaries, but should be clearly specified as to purpose and scope.
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