tv America Tonight Al Jazeera May 27, 2014 12:30am-1:01am EDT
us for "america tonight"'s special investigation, dirty power, good night. >> fragile children far from home. >> nursing homes are not an appropriate place for any child. >> segregated and isolated. big money, big power. >> if you follow the money you'll see the influence it's incredible. >> heartbreak. >> my daughter when they took her away, next day she was dead. >> i'm sheila macvicar and this is an "america tonight" special investigation. invisible children. nursing homes may not be the kind of place where you would expect to find kids but in the
state of florida over the years thousands of medically fragile and complex children have been sent to live in skilled nursing facilities. the kind of place you'd see senior citizens. and like senior citizens the children often stay for years. we went inside and found children being warehoused. this is hidden camera video from inside a florida nursing home. children in wheelchairs parked in a hallway that place called kid's corner near fort lauderdale. >> it's mosh more lik more likef storages, of storing the kids. >> marcel lowe's son andrew has lived there for over a year. andrew martinez was an outgoing high school senior. his goal was to become a firefighter when a freak accident changed his life.
>> we are on our way to visit andrew martinez. ten days after his 18th birthday he had cardiac arrest brain. >> would you like to have cared for him at home? >> that's what i would have loved. >> he wasn't told he could stay at home. the state of florida has pushed parents to send their children to nursing homes like this one according to a department of justice investigation. caring for old and young, geriatric and pediatric. this is the first of our visits inside with martinez. >> what do you think his day is like when you don't come to see him? what does he do? >> not much of nothing. because when i show up there, there's no interaction. >> with oat people? >> yes.
>> or with staff? >> yes, with staff. there's nobody there to really care to him. there's no -- it's more of a -- more of a system, okay, 12:00, need him. give him his meds. thaghtthat's it. done-deal. >> the done-deal on this day, kids in the hallway some desperate for attention. some kids not doing anything, no activities, no toys in their hands. the calendar on the wall calls it chillin'. >> is that the way they're treated? >> that's basically it, nothing new. finding my son, stuck in between a door , how is that facility helping him? just stuck in between a door? oh yeah.
but that's the reality i have to deal with. i'm sorry. >> reporter: other families told us they had seen the same thing. children neglected for hours, parked in the hallway, ignored. the reality federal inspectors have found at kids corner, rusty cribs. heavily soiled floors, walls and counters. furniture torn and in disrepair. loose handrails. dirty showers. and possibly most alarming of all. one registered nurse to care for 59 medically fragile children. federal standards call for at least two . deonte spent more than a year at kids corner and while he was
there he enjoyed bed sores and two broken election. >> -- legs. >> how was it there? >> terrible. >> how was it terrible? >> nasty food. someone to see -- >> rough? rough in what way? >> when they change you, they turn you hard and everything. >> they weren't very gentle with you? >> yep. >> cnas are certified nurse assistants. like mars la martinez, the schulers didn't think they could git get assistance from the state. >> that wasn't an option. >> i'm about to party ♪ >> deonte's grandmother then tried to move him out of kids corner.
>> they didn't want him to leave. that was part of their gravy train. >> the schulers found a lawyer. >> he was our angel of mercy. helped get my grandson out there. >> lawyer matt deitz, an outspoken defender of the medically fragile. he is suing to force the state of florida to pay for in-home care. >> nursing homes are not an appropriate place for any child. a child should be with their family. >> isn't it more expensive to keep kids in nursing homes? >> the state has acknowledged it's 20% more expensive to have a child in nursing home than in their own home. it is ending up costing the state almost 250 to 300,000 a year. >> the nursing homes why do they
do it ? >> it's an incentive, an annuity. >> the state pays nursing homes up to $550 a day for children, twice as much as for elderly patients and 20% more than full time nursing care at home. but a federal lawsuit says the state of florida has not better than eeg are to see the kids go home. the state says, way from family and community. marcello martinez wishes his son wasn't so far away. >> i am your average joe, i have bills to pay, kids to raise. unfortunately -- >> and you've got andrew. >> yes. >> when "america tonight"'s investigation continues -- >> my daughter was healthy when they took her away.
next day she was dead. >> a child's tragic death in a florida nursing home. >> every saturday join us for exclusive, revealing, and surprising talks with the most interesting people of our time. rosie perez >> i had to fight back, or else my ass was gonna get kicked... >> a tough childhood... >> there was a crying, there was a lot of laughter... >> finding her voice >> i was not a ham, i was ham & cheese... >> and turning it around... >> you don't have to let your circumstance dictate who you are as a person >> talk to al jazeera only on al jazeera america
this is the 900 page document we call obama care. it could change costs coverage and pretty much all of health care in america. well, my show sorts this all out. in fact, my staff has read the entire thing. which is probably more then most members of congress can claim. we'll separate politics from policy and just prescribe the facts. >> welcome back. few parents are equipped to cope on their only wit own with a chd who's suffered a catastrophic illness. nursing care, sometimes around the clock. in florida, parents say the state has pushed them to send
their children to live in nursing homes rather than in their own homes. and sometimes with tragic results. >> they took her out of my arms. and they kill her. that's what they did. >> perhaps no story is more heartbreaking than marie's. marie was born prematurely and suffered from hydroreceiv hydrocephalus. she had been seizure free by the time she reached 14. >> i raised her with all the tender love and care i could give her. but doris is frail herself with herniated disks and carpal tunnel syndrome. she asked the state for help. so she could be
covered with round the clock nursing home. >> the state never made the call to get marie the help she needs. >> instead, the state decided marie should be in a nursing home. without a court order, in a nearly 300 mile trip from tampa to miami. this is pictures from the last day marie frery was alive. >> she was belted in the balance, without food. without her medicines. without water. >> marie was supposed to take her seizure medications three times a day. an investigation concluded she did not receive these medications in the ambulance or at the miami nursing home. >> she wasn't given the medication that she needed in order to stay alive. >> at 5:45 the next morning marie's heart stopped beating
and she was rushed to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead, 12 hours after she had arrived in miami. >> my daughter was healthy when they took her away. next day she was dead. >> is there any doubt in your mind that if marie had been able to come home to you as the judge had ordered, that she would still be alive? >> she would not be dead. >> elizabeth dudek runs a state agency, overseeing a state jagh agency. >> it is the parent or guardian who authorizes the location of service delivery and it is our goal to ensure that children receive the medically necessary services they need in a home setting. >> i should be able to have my
child at home with me, it's that simple. >> sue root and other parents say they have had to fight the state every step of the way. in order to keep their children at home. sue root's daughter amy is quadriplegic and suffers from life threatening seizures. amy also breathes through a tube in her throat, an airway that can be clogged cutting off her flow of oxygen. >> she can't walk, she can't talk, she can't eat, she can't do anything for herself. she needs 24-seven care. >> talk to me about these pictures. >> that was the last picture of
her before her accident. >> she was riding her scooter and struck by an uninsured motorist. root wanted her daughter at home and doctors agreed. florida for a while provided 24 hour care for amy. >> i had received a letter saying they were reducing the nursing hours, from 24 hours to 16 hours then 12 hours. leaving sue root to take the other 12 hours, seven days a week. at one point, root said the state proposed cutting amy's home nursing down to six hours a day. >> that was the ultimate goal. the ultimate goal was for the parent to be responsible. >> according to paperwork sue root provided us, the nonprofit
agency florida uses to administer these claims, eq health solutions, said health character wasn't available for the parent. >> i'm sorry for this situation. nobody's sorrier than we are and we live with it every day of our lives. i shouldn't have to be begging or jumping through hoops to get these people to respond. >> as they joined the lawsuit, things have changed. sue root once again has 24 hour nursing care for her daughter which happened she believes only because of the suit. state rates for home nursing haven't changed since 1987 and it's hard to find nurses. >> other places, other states are, i mean, they're able to manage these situations so much better than florida. and i i'm
-- and i'm like why can't florida get it together. >> have you come to any conclusions about why that situation is? >> because they don't want to. it is not a priority. they would rather see my daughter die and quit being a problem for them. >> once deonte got a lawyer, things changed for him too. nonprofit step down facility designed to prepare kids to go home. deonte now takes the bus to school every day. he takes part in activities. >> we are making a lava lamp. >> and the therapists are helping skills. >> if you had a wish where you wanted to live, where would you live? >> at home. >> at home with your mom and your grandparents? >> uh-huh.. >> home is four hours away in orlando, and visits are special occasions.
>> deonte is the light of my life. he's a beautiful soul. when i see him, i just -- i go into joy-mode that's how i feel. >> pretty cool? >> yes. >> coming up, we follow the money. >> their bottom line is the least amount of care they can get away with and the most for stockholders and for ceo's salaries. >> i'm ali velshi, the news has become this thing where you talk to
we wanted to understand why the state of florida makes it so lucrative for nursing homes to take care of children. so we decided to follow the money all the way to the state capitol, tallahassee. >> when andrew martinez had a sudden heart attack at 17, the oxygen deprived his brawn. an drew's father, marcella martinez. >> has anybody said to you, he could be at home, with home care? has anyone ever given you an option? >> no, i really wish they would have. but there's nobody there really to support, help or reach out. so it's kind of been a struggle all along. >> the federal department of justice civil rights investigation found florida has planned, structured and administered a system of care
that has led to the unnecessary segregation and isolation of children often for many years in nursing facilities. that system of care is worth a lot of money. $550 a day for each child cared for at a nursing home. that's more than twice what the state pays for elderly residents. more even florida concedes in court documents than the state pays for round-the-clock nursing care at home. children in nursing homes are big business. >> if you follow the money you'll see the influence. it's incredible. >> nancy is a republican who served in both the florida house and senate where she chaired the committee overseeing nursing homes. >> parents that we spoke to who have children who are in need of skilled nursing care told us that although the state insists they are given their options which would include skilled nursing care at home, they told
us they aren't given their options. >> no, when you talk to those parents or loved ones you'll find they weren't given the options. the leadership to keep the children out of those institutions. >> during her time in talz tallahassee, she saw the money and power the industry yields. >> they said, we own you. and i looked back at her and said you don't oa own me sister. >> the $3 billion nursing industry usually wins this war. thanks oa small army of lobbyists in tallahassee. >> 21 lobbyists registered for this year with 160 legislators?
that's a pretty high ratio of lobbyist to legislators. >> right. we have a good lobby team. that's for sure. >> so how much influence does money have here in tallahassee? >> significant influence. i mean, this building is our senate and house, driven by money. >> dan krasner is co-founder of a nonprofit group. >> increasingly across the country lobbyists are actually writing the laws. they are walking into a legislative office and saying here's the bill we want you to file. >> krasner's organization found the nursing industry spent more than $3.2 million on campaigns in 2007 and 2013. the owner of kids corner gave an additional $367,000. >> when it comes to a member of
the florida house of representatives or the florida senate and you're talking about tens of thousands of dollars that's enough if targeted in the right way can put a candidate over the top to win an election. >> we do support legislators who support long term care, absolutely. >> and what does that mean? >> the nursing homes depend on the legislature particularly for our funding. >> and what happens to legislators who don't support long term care? >> well, i think what we want to see in the legislature is legislators who truly do understand our mission and what we try to do. so yes. during the elections, if we could find legislators who have long term care experience, we are happy to support legislators with long term care experience. >> what they're really saying is, you're going odo what we say. >> during her time in office she says the nursing homes backed her performance because she
fought the industry on issues such as minimum staffing requirements. >> we tried to do something called aging in place, that applied to children who needed home care also. we found it was much cheaper for many people to keep their loved one at home. we talked a big storm about aging in place and they let it die, it was bought out of consideration. >> when we went to kids corner we our hidden cameras found kids parked in the hallway not doing anything. desperate for attention. >> these children they can't play with toys. so in their down time, what you see is instead of being isolated in the room, they're out in the hallways where they get some stimulation. >> this down time also avoids having to pay staff for therapy or play or even attention. >> for most of them their bottom line is the least amount of care they can get away with and the most for the stockholders and
for the ceo salaries. >> that's upsetting for parents like marcello martins. he thinks stimulation will help his son. >> when i'm there, there's nobody there to care to him. it's more like a facility of storage. of storing the skids. >> -- the kids. >> i'm listening, you just relax, okay? >> these facilities are highly regulated. you have multiple agencies an ombudsmen and county and state and federal agents in there. if you are not providing quality care you're going oget shut down. >> the influence of the nursing home lobby extends to the state agencies that write the rules and regulate the industry. >> follow the money. we have a legislative process and a regulatory process that pays attention to the big
political donors and their army of lobbyists ahead of the public interest. these children don't vote. they don't write campaign checks. they don't come up to lobby tallahassee politician he in the capitol. >> so concerned about andrew's day-to-day care, he has a hard time worrying about lobbying. he found his son was only receiving two hours a month of speech therapy. i was with him when he spoke with the speech therapist. >> she says to you, he doesn't follow our commands and we can only evaluate what he does. >> i pulled down my slep an -- my cell phone and showed her how he follows commands. >> push it up more, more, more, you got it.
hold onto it and push it. push it up. there you go, there you go andrew. >> kids corner owner declined to sit down with us. we received this statement from kids corner. our dedicated staff has exemplary record. we take our dedication to the patients very seriously. >> andrew's progress is diminished, and doesn't know what will happen to andrew when he reaches 21 and can't even stay at kids corner. >> state of florida, you don't care. you don't. this is one father that could tell you that. like i say, you don't care about my son or the rest of these kids. and i see it, live it every day. >> what happens here in tallahassee plays out in the lives of aflorida's invisible children and their families
across the state every day. i'm sheila macvicar and this has been an "america tonight" special investigation. thanks for watching. >> a plea from former president jimmy carter. to end world violence against women. he'll join us. >> and extraordinary kids. in the present. why won't congress allow the cdc to conduct a study on gun violence. a members of congress and of -- a member of congress and a spokeman joins us. i'm antonio mora, here's more of what's ahead.