PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Governor Doug Ducey has issued an executive order to strengthen protections for disabled people following the Hacienda HealthCare rape.

"All Arizonans deserve to be safe," Ducey stated.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Hacienda HealthCare pregnancy investigation]

Ducey's order, which was issued on Wednesday, directs the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and the Department of Economic Security (DES) to strengthen protections for people with disabilities.

Read the executive order HERE.

The Executive Order requires AHCCCS, ADHS and DES to develop protocols on preventing, recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect for both care providers and parents or guardians of individuals with disabilities. The order also requires staff with direct contact to patients with disabilities to undergo annual training in abuse prevention. Additionally, AHCCCS, DHS, and DES will convene a working group to consider further actions to improve care for Arizona’s most vulnerable populations.

[RELATED: State regulators say Hacienda HealthCare did not find third-party manager]

“All Arizonans deserve to be safe — and we have a special responsibility to protect those with disabilities,” said Governor Ducey. “This executive order provides increased accountability and stricter oversight, ensuring our most vulnerable are safe and protected. There’s more that needs to be done to ensure Arizona is guarding against abuse and neglect. We will continue working with all stakeholders to take additional action, and hold bad actors accountable, to guarantee the highest quality of care and protection for Arizonans with disabilities.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Ducey said he learned Hacienda had not complied with orders to put a third-party manager in charge of operations as police investigate the sexual assault of a patient living in a vegetative state.  

In a statement, Hacienda said it had two third-party administrators in place, but on Wednesday, state regulators stressed Hacienda had not met the criteria to be in compliance.

Statement from AHCCCS: 

"Although the State had previously provided conditional approval for the selection of Benchmark as the third party entity to manage day-to-day oversight and appropriate delivery of health care services at Hacienda, the State has not approved selection of the two individuals (referenced as third-party administrators) to serve in this capacity. The State’s directive requires that the third party entity independently perform and oversee operations of the ICF and SNF. Simply contracting with two individuals as Administrators for these facilities raises questions about the independence of these contractors, who would report to Hacienda, and fails to comply with the State’s directive.

The directive from AHCCCS and DES requires that Hacienda obtain prior approval from the State of a qualified third party manager to monitor and oversee the day to day operations and appropriate delivery of health care services at the ICF and the SNF. As part of those responsibilities, the third party entity is required to perform individualized assessments and to establish continuity of care plans for each resident no later than 90 days from January 16. Additionally, the selected third party must possess the qualifications, authority and compensation as specified in federal regulations that apply to temporary management of a facility participating in Medicare or Medicaid."

Gov. Ducey sent a letter to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich requesting the Attorney General look into potential criminal actions at Hacienda HealthCare.  

“I just started pursuing it to try and get her out as soon as possible. It was just very uncomfortable there," said Karina Cesena. She moved her 22-year-old daughter Jasmine out of Hacienda two weeks ago, concerned for her safety. 

She is applauding Gov. Ducey for taking action and issuing the executive order to keep the disabled community, including her daughter, safe. 

“I was happy! I was like finally, somebody is doing something about this," she said. “It’s amazing. It’s a lot of things having to do with state officials coming together and being more proactive." 

Ray Peterson, is also pleased with the new legislation. He was supposed to move his cousin into Hacienda in January. 

"The day we signed the papers, your news story broke and then the following day everything was put to a halt," Peterson said. 

Both Cesena and Peterson say finding care facilities that can accommodate their loved ones' specific needs is extremely difficult, so they hope having staff better-trained and protections in place under this new executive order will give them more options, and more trust, in places that care for their family members. 

"It’s an uphill battle. You have to be a true advocate and fight for your family member," said Peterson. “I think this is going to start to drive change in Arizona, and then spread across the country. And it’s needed." 

 


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