Trending Topics

Ill. officials approve $500 lift fee at assisted living facilities

Decatur City Council ordinance comes after increased fire department calls to assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

Decatur Fire Department

Decatur Fire Department

Decatur Fire Department, Illinois

By Brenden Moore
Herald & Review

DECATUR, Ill. — At least for the next year, the performance of lift assist services by the Decatur Fire Department at commercial facilities such as assisted-living facilities and nursing homes will come with a $500 fee.

The Decatur City Council approved an amended ordinance Monday evening to address what city officials say is a growing problem: the rise in lift assist calls that take fire department staff away from their core responsibilities.

According to the city, the fire department’s lift assist calls have increased from 430 in 2014 to more than 1,000 in 2023. Though acknowledging that an aging population is part of the culprit, city staff believe it to be the result of private care providers refusing to provide the service for their residents.

“I would propose that any of us that saw an elderly person fall in a grocery store or out in the park or somewhere, we would offer to help them up,” said Fire Chief Jeff Abbott. “So our concentration right now is the facilities that have people there to provide care and they do not provide the care.”

The proposal passed unanimously despite various concerns from some council members and officials representing supportive living and assisted living facilities.

One of the concerns: some of the facilities in question are not required to provide medical care to their residents while others are not required to have a nurse or someone else qualified to do a lift assist present around the clock.

Johna McFadden, director of Evergreen Senior Living, said that calls to the fire department are made when an assessment is needed for an injury.

“I have a Raizer lift. I can pick them up off the floor,” McFadden said. “But assessing for injury is outside the scope of practice of a certified nursing assistant. That is for a nurse to determine or an outside first responder. They are able to use our Raizer lift together and lift that person.”

McFadden said that last year, there were 142 calls for service, which included 52 lift assist, 37 of which resulted in a trip to the emergency room.

Asked by Councilman Dennis Cooper what they will do if the ordinance passed, McFadden said “We’re gonna still call.”

“We still have to have that assessment,” she said. “We’ll pay the fine.”

To assuage some concerns, Abbott said that calls that result in medical care where transport is needed to the hospital do not count as a lift assist and will not be subject to the fine.

Abbott confirmed that there was no outreach to commercial facilities ahead of the ordinance being proposed, which Cooper said left him “dumbfounded.”

“I think we did a very poor job of providing them communication regarding this coming to us tonight,” Cooper said. “And I think we owe it to the taxpayers as well.”

However, several members of the council said it was about time this ordinance came up, noting that this conversation has been had on-and-off for several years.

“I’m finally glad to see this on the agenda,” said Councilwoman Lisa Gregory. “We’ve been talking about this since I’ve been here. That’s almost nine years.”

She added that she didn’t think that "$500 is too much to bill for this.”

Councilman Pat McDaniel agreed.

“They’re a business,” McDaniel said. “They have insurance and they should be doing this and not putting it on the taxpayer.”

However, acknowledging the concerns expressed, Gregory proposed an amendment attaching a one-year sunset provision ensuring that the council will have to reconsider the ordinance this time next year. It passed unanimously.

Near everyone said that lift assists are a growing problem. And that there are no easy fixes, including this proposal.

“I’m definitely not suggesting that this ordinance tonight is going to change our life assist problem because it’s not,” Abbott said. “Hopefully it would help reduce the number of calls to these care facilities.”

Abbott said the fine amount was created by factoring in costs associated with the firefighters providing the service, including salary, pension and health insurance.

(c)2024 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)
Visit the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.