Department of Justice National Nursing Home Initiative

March 12, 2020

On March 3, 2020, United States Attorney General William Barr announced the launch of the Department of Justice’s National Nursing Home Initiative (the “Initiative”) which aims to target “grossly-substandard care” among nursing home providers. In announcing the Initiative, Attorney General Barr highlighted under-reported and unreported fraud and abuse against nursing home residents as being a prime area of focus. Further guidance from the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs clarified that the Department would be targeting facilities that “consistently fail to provide adequate nursing staff to care for their residents, fail to adhere to basic protocols of hygiene and infection control, fail to provide their residents with enough food to eat so that they become emaciated and weak, withhold pain medication, or use physical or chemical restraints to restrain or otherwise sedate their residents.” Concerning such facilities, Attorney General Barr directed that the Department was “set on figuring out exactly who they are, and putting an end to their cruelty,” further indicating that the Department had “initiated investigations into approximately 30 individual nursing facilities in nine states.” 

What This Means for Providers

Nursing home providers should take immediate steps to address repeat and severe deficiencies in areas related to staffing, infection prevention and control, resident dietary and medication management, abuse and exploitation, and the use of physical or chemical restraints. Any such efforts should be clearly documented. The need for immediate, well-documented action to address concerns in the areas referenced above, as well as with respect to any repeat deficiencies, is especially significant among Special Focus Facilities, as there is a high likelihood the Department of Justice will examine information related to such facilities as a primary step in the Initiative. Given the potential for substantial civil or even criminal penalties given the involvement of the Department of Justice, it is strongly recommended that any provider who receives a request for information or investigative subpoena from the Department of Justice contact counsel immediately to evaluate the nature of the request and the facility’s options for addressing it. These developments are ongoing, and Hancock Daniel anticipates further information to develop in this area in the coming months.

If you have any questions or need further guidance regarding the National Nursing Home Initiative, please contact Hancock Daniel’s Long-Term Care & Post-Acute Care team.

The information contained in this advisory is for general educational purposes only. It is presented with the understanding that neither the author nor Hancock, Daniel & Johnson, P.C., is offering any legal or other professional services. Since the law in many areas is complex and can change rapidly, this information may not apply to a given factual situation and can become outdated. Individuals desiring legal advice should consult legal counsel for up-to-date and fact-specific advice. Under no circumstances will the author or Hancock, Daniel & Johnson, P.C. be liable for any direct, indirect, or consequential damages resulting from the use of this material.

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