A fight for sweeping nursing home reform in Oklahoma makes its way to the governor's office. Startling statistics of senior citizen abuse and neglect are the driving force for change in Oklahoma.
"A Perfect Cause" reported that there are roughly 3,500 preventable nursing home deaths a year in the Sooner State. Senior citizen advocates and abuse survivors told News 9 many of Oklahoma's issues can be solved with more state oversight. Senior services committee chairman Representative David Dank said he and other lawmakers are developing a plan to help Oklahoma's elderly population.
On Monday, members of Governor Fallin's staff took notice and met with advocates.
"It's ageism," said Fern A. Horton, nursing home abuse survivor. "It's discrimination against old people."
Volunteers from "A Perfect Cause" are demanding that seven state officials be fired for violating federal and state laws by allowing senior citizen abuse. The group told News 9 it is proposing Fallin take action against officials in the Oklahoma Department of Health.
In February, a comprehensive nursing home reform bill died in a House committee hearing. Senior advocates said Monday's meeting with the Governor's office is simply the next step in a long journey to achieve some success.
"We're just trying so hard to get someone to listen because it's a really serious problem," Christina Anderson, volunteer advocate, said.
Horton is hopeful Fallin will do everything within her power to create change as soon as possible. However, Horton has not been impressed yet.
"The governor has said many times that she takes nursing home abuse very seriously because her mother was in a nursing home," said Horton. "Well, prove it, Mary. Prove it … she doesn't. Her actions belie what she says."
Dank said lawmakers will draft a new, comprehensive bill for nursing home reform before the next legislative session. Lawmakers have not given specifics on what that new legislation will include.
The Governor's office declined to give comment for this story. Monday's meeting with senior advocates and state officials was not open to members of the media.