Following up on some of the local issues that The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board took positions on in 2019.
The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board took tough stances on myriad important issues in 2019. As the year comes to a close, we assessed how a handful of local issues were resolved — or not.
NURSING HOMES. Back in May, we expressed dismay that only 35% of the state’s almost 700 nursing homes and 7% of 3,000 assisted-living facilities had installed life-saving generators. This was well past the Jan. 1 deadline imposed by then-Gov. Rick Scott. And another hurricane season was about to begin.
Scott had set the requirement following the entirely preventable deaths of 12 elderly men and women in a Hollywood Hills nursing home amid the stifling heat that followed Hurricane Irma in 2017. Facilities are now supposed to have generators capable of keeping residents cool for 96 hours in case of a power outage.
Happily, the latest figures from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) carry far better news. Virtually every one of Palm Beach County’s 189 assisted-living facilities (ALFs) and 55 nursing homes has a permanent or temporary generator onsite or has arrangements for a temporary generator in case of an emergency. Only one facility, the six-bed Mi Casitas ALF in West Palm Beach, was unaccounted for.
This should be a source of comfort to all who might occupy the 14,170 beds in these facilities — and their loved ones.
However, 16% of the county’s 244 providers are still not fully compliant with the state mandate, which, besides having a generator, requires obtaining necessary permits from local government and getting approvals from the county emergency management agency and state health-care regulators.
Two hurricane seasons have come and gone since the Hollywood Hills tragedy. Enough with the excuses. AHCA should pressure the stragglers with fines until compliance is 100% throughout the state.
ONE FLAGLER: In September 2017, and again almost exactly a year later, we urged the West Palm Beach City Commission to reject measures to help mega-developer The Related Cos. erect a 25-story office tower near the Intracoastal Waterway on Flagler Drive.
A majority of the commission agreed with us in 2017; but the next year, allies of the project helped elect new members to the panel. Since then it’s been smooth sailing for the building, which will pierce the local height limit and almost certainly create traffic nightmares.
This month, the tower received what appears the final okay when the city’s Downtown Action Committee voted its unanimous approval. Unless opponents stage a successful court action, this office building for a customer base of the Palm Beach 1% will indeed rise over a site that city residents, in two referendums, said should be restricted to buildings no more than five stories in height.
GLADES HOUSING: In October, we demanded action to fix the appalling conditions in Belle Glade public housing, exposed by Post reporter Hannah Morse: “live roaches and rat droppings…mold on the walls.”
The good news: The Belle Glade Housing Authority is getting a new management company on Jan. 1 that sounds eager to make long-overdue changes. “Our team is excited about turning Belle Glade around,” the firm’s CEO, Ramona Hyson, emailed Morse, “and making a difference in the lives of the hard-working residents who deserve safe, decent and affordable homes.”
That’s exactly the right tone. We look forward to seeing big improvements in the new year.
GOLDEN CENTER: In a sobering testament to Florida’s scandalous lack of financial support for public mental health services, the Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health in West Palm Beach went bankrupt and, in October, abruptly closed — leaving hundreds of mostly indigent patients in anxious limbo.
Hardest hit were 50 longtime residents of the center’s two residential facilities for people with mental illnesses. They had to find new homes by Jan. 1.
And fortunately, they have — thanks to the hard work of the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network and some family members. As of Dec. 17, almost half the residents had already been relocated; all the others were lined up with new places, except two who were undecided, according to the network’s CEO, Ann Berners.
“I’m very optimistic for 2020,” Berners told the Palm Beach County Commission,” in our ability to make sure we manage this high need of this high-intensity population.”
A nice thought for the beginning of the new year.