GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The death of a man who walked out of what was supposed to be a locked Jenison adult foster care home is focusing new attention on safety at these homes.
“When anybody does the work to find a place to put their loved one, we want to know they’re going to be safe,” said state Rep. Stephanie Young, D-Wayne County. “We want to know there are going to be people watching them and making certain they’re where they’re supposed to be.”
Young introduced legislation in June that she says would make adult foster care homes safer.
Opponents fear the legislation could raise costs and force some adult foster care homes to close.
Calvin Powers could be the poster child for the legislation, if it didn’t already have one.
The 83-year-old former country singer was an honorary member of the Michigan Country Music Hall of fame and performed in Nashville in the 1970s with the likes of Mickey Gilley. Powers spent his last days at the American House Senior Living Cherrywood memory care home in Jenison.
He was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
“When you read and hear stories like this, it is just heartbreaking,” Young said.
The bill, which would be known as Theresa’s Law if it passes, was inspired by the death in 2021 of Theresa Sella Skrabis, who had fallen while at an American House adult foster care home in Jenison — the same complex where Powers died.
While the state didn’t issue a citation over her death, it cited the home for not treating her with dignity.
The bill would require more transparency.
“What’s the ratio of staff to patients; those types of things,” Young said.
It would require more training.
“We want to be certain that the people that are working there know how to administer medication properly. We want to make sure that folks are properly trained to do the job.”
And, it would boost fines for violations — from the current $1,000 to up to $5,000.
“I come from an era that says money talks,” Young said. “If you want to get somebody’s attention, you hit them in the pocketbook.
“Loss of life should mean the highest possible penalty.”
The legislation also would call for an LPN on duty 24-hours a day, five days a week, and a social worker on staff available to each resident for an hour a week.
A house fiscal agency analysis shows the law would cost the state agency that regulates adult foster homes $6.75 million a year — mostly for the staff to inspect homes and enforce the law.
Nadine Carlson, co-founder of Care Provider Solutions, a consultant group for adult foster care homes, fears the legislation would force some of the state’s more than 4,100 homes to shut down.
“The intent behind the bill is commendable,” Care Provider Solutions wrote on its website. “It seeks to address preventable negligence and abuse and medication errors in AFC facilities. Unfortunately, the proposed changes will force AFCs to close, increasing the challenge of housing and care options for those requiring supported living environments.”
Young created a work group that includes lawmakers, adult foster care home owners and the daughter of the bill’s namesake.
“The one thing I’m not looking to do is put people out of business,” Young said. “I’m willing to sit down; I’m willing to talk.”
The Michigan chapter of the National Placement and Referal Alliance, a senior living placement service, is part of the work group.
“We’ve come a long way with the dialogue so far and we’ve made good ground; we’re really optimistic,” said Michigan Chapter of National Placement and Referal Alliance president.
The bill, which has 32 sponsors, was referred to the House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors. Young says she’s optimistic it will become law next year.