Oversight Needed at Unlicensed Atria Senior Living Facilities in Tucson, Advocates Say

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Senior Care Activists Inform County Board of Supervisors of Pending State Investigation into Care and Conditions at Two Local Facilities

My wife has MS and is a quadriplegic. I take care of her now, but I won't be able to do it forever. When that time comes, like millions of other aging families, we want quality care to be available. But how can we be sure we'll get it unless care facilities are licensed and inspected and held responsible for delivering quality? We need help

Senior-care advocates and representatives from the Campaign to Improve Assisted Living and SEIU Healthcare attended the Pima County Board of Supervisors' meeting today to inform the County about a pending State investigation into two senior living facilities in Tucson allegedly operating without a license. The facilities are Atria Bell Court Gardens (6653 E. Carondelet Dr.) and Atria Valley Manor (5549 E. Lee St.). Both are operated by Atria Senior Living, one of the nation’s largest assisted living providers.

Advocates called for the investigation of the facilities after communicating with Atria residents and employees, reviewing Atria’s regulatory compliance record in its licensed facilities in Tucson and Chandler, and investigating Atria’s problems with similar licensure issues in its facilities in other states.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) has established a number of regulations to protect the safety of residents in assisted living facilities. Residents of unlicensed facilities do not receive many of these protections. For example, unlicensed facilities are not subject to specific requirements on issues such as personnel levels and training, reporting of abuse and neglect, and fire safety. Further, DHS does not regularly inspect unlicensed facilities, giving residents and their loved ones neither an ability to assess the record of services nor an assurance that problems will be corrected when they occur.

"My wife has MS and is a quadriplegic. I take care of her now, but I won't be able to do it forever. When that time comes, like millions of other aging families, we want quality care to be available. But how can we be sure we'll get it unless care facilities are licensed and inspected and held responsible for delivering quality? We need help," said George Mairs, a local senior and disabilities rights advocate.

Atria has allegedly avoided licensure at these locations by claiming the two facilities are "independent retirement communities." However, they may actually be providing services that would require a license to help ensure resident safety and quality care. Specifically, Atria advertises "general awareness and supervision" of residents at both facilities; and Bell Court Gardens may be contracting for higher levels of service through a home care agency located on-site.

Atria operates two other assisted living facilities in Arizona, Atria Campana del Rio in Tucson and Atria Chandler Villas in Chandler, both licensed. Each of these facilities has been the subject of DHS enforcement action during the past two years, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. At one, a woman was repeatedly given her husband's medications, one of which contributed to her death. At the other, the state imposed a provisional license and a substantial fine for serious problems, including designating an acting director who had never been trained as a caregiver, and employing an unlicensed home care agency to provide services.

In addition to problems in the state, Atria has been cited more than 1,000 times nationwide for serious resident care problems, according to state documents. Based on their care record in Arizona and nationally, advocates are concerned about resident care and other conditions at facilities such as Atria Bell Gardens and Atria Valley Manor that receive minimal oversight from the state.

The Campaign to Improve Assisted Living is an SEIU Healthcare campaign that unites assisted living caregivers with residents, family members, and senior advocates to stand for quality services for seniors and a voice on the job for caregivers. More than one million healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and in-home care have united in SEIU Healthcare for quality care and quality jobs.

CONTACT: Jennifer Kelly, 213-300-3336 (cell)

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