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After incapacitated woman gives birth at Hacienda Healthcare, task force releases recommendation to protect vulnerable adults

Last year a woman who was incapacitated was raped and impregnated by a staffer. The task force findings aim at fixing a system way beyond just Hacienda.

PHOENIX — It's been almost a year since an incapacitated woman gave birth at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix, launching a sexual assault investigation that eventually led to the arrest of a former nurse at the facility. 

After the scandal, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called for a task force to come up with recommendations on what can be improved to protect vulnerable adults.

The task force released its findings on Nov. 1. You can read the letter here. 

The report included some laws that were implemented in the spring, which can be found here.

You can also look up potential caregivers records here.

"This report goes way beyond what happened at Hacienda," Will Humble, the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, and former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said. 

Humble said the report, with its 30 recommendations, aims at protecting vulnerable adults wherever they are receiving care. 

The recommendations will aim to cover up any gaps that may currently exist to better protect those who rely on others for care. 

"If we as Arizonans can't get this right, it's just shameful," Humble said. 

Ducey's spokesman said in an email to 12 News that the governor's office will be reviewing the recommendations over the coming days and weeks and "taking steps to implement them with the goal of ensuring that all of Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens are kept safe from abuse and neglect."

RELATED: Nathan Sutherland set to go on trial in February for allegedly raping, impregnating Hacienda Healthcare patient

RELATED: The latest on the ex-nurse charged with raping patient at Hacienda Healthcare

What does the task force think should change?

The report details plenty of potential changes, but Humble focused on two.

The first being the use of agencies to leverage state dollars to require contractors providing care to accept new rules. 

"Using the power of the purse to drive what your contractors do," Humble said. 

Second, Humble said the report recommends giving the Adult Protective Services the resources it needs to operate. Humble said the agency was underfunded and staffed during his time as director. He said if they do not get the proper funding, the whole plan could fall apart. 

RELATED: 'Pray for me': Police report shows Hacienda rape suspect's behavior changed before victim gave birth

Humble said the recommendations made by the task force were a mixture on common sense and concrete ideals. They will have deadlines to be implemented within the next year. 

But Humble said it matters more how long these programs last than how quickly they get up. If these are long-term projects, it can do a lot of good for vulnerable adults. 

"That's not to say bad things won't continue to happen," Humble said. "Bad things will continue to happen, but the key is to do everything we possibly can to minimize that." 

RELATED: 5 Hacienda-owned clinics for infants were unlicensed, officials say

RELATED: Hacienda to close Mesa children's hospital due to problems at Phoenix facility

Here are the specific recommendations from the task force

The recommendations made in the report by the task force include:

• Statewide Public Awareness Campaign: Arizona should commit to creating a statewide culture of abuse, neglect, and exploitation prevention and should educate the broader public of that commitment through a public awareness campaign.  

• Prevention and Accountability: All state agencies, in collaboration with private vendors and stakeholders, should develop, disclose, implement, and monitor policies and practices aimed at preventing abuse, neglect, and exploitation, reporting incidents, conducting investigations, and ensuring incident stabilization and recovery.

• Multi-Agency Coordination: AHCCCS, DES, ADHS and other critical system partners should employ a coordinated, multidisciplinary team approach in preventing and addressing incidents of abuse and neglect.

• Signage: Signage on how to report abuse, neglect, and exploitation should be prominently posted in all settings in which vulnerable individuals reside and/or receive services.

• Training for Vulnerable Individuals and Families State agencies, in partnership with community-based organizations, should offer evidence based training on abuse, neglect, and exploitation prevention, reporting, and recovery to vulnerable individuals and their families.

• Identification, Tracking, and Analysis of Incidents: AHCCCS and DES should continue to explore improvements in tracking and analyzing incidents of alleged abuse and neglect, including mechanisms for making data readily available to the public.  

RELATED: Medicaid terminates agreement with Hacienda Healthcare; more abuse cases uncovered

• Workforce Development: AHCCCS, in partnership with its contracted managed care organizations (MCOs), providers, industry groups, and regulatory agencies, should develop a comprehensive workforce development strategy which fosters workplaces that uphold the ideals of respect, attentiveness, and active support for all individuals receiving services and providing services within the State Medicaid program.  

• Adult Protective Services Registry and Training: State-issued contracts should be revised to require Adult Protective Services (APS) Registry checks for prospective direct service employees and training should be offered to investigators and supervisors related to federal and state APS guidelines.  

• Supportive Resources to Help Manage Caregiver Stress: AHCCCS, in partnership with its contracted MCOs, should provide training and resources to address caregiver stress and burnout.  

• Public Access to Setting Monitoring Reports: Publicly reported data, including monitoring reports for group homes and adult developmental homes, should be easily accessible on the DES website, to the extent allowed by statute and privacy restrictions. 

• Review of Confidentiality Requirements: A stakeholder and agency workgroup should be formed to identify potential revisions to statute and agency policies to allow information sharing between parties while maintaining required privacy and confidentiality protections.  

• Review of Status and Results of Recommendations: A Task Force should be convened by the Governor’s Office in late 2020 for the purpose of reviewing progress on these recommendations.

RELATED: 17 of the nation’s worst-rated nursing homes are in Arizona

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