DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- No license. No good. DeKalb County police say they're cracking down on unlicensed personal care facilities, concerned the owners are skirting the law, just to break others.
On Thursday, police arrested two people at two homes, they say were illegally taking care of the elderly or adults with mental and physical disabilities. Police have several more arrest warrants waiting.
Police say Terentia McIntosh was operating three unlicensed facilities at one point. One was reportedly closed by the Department of Community Health after a fire. Investigators are now looking into whether neglect may have played a role.
McIntosh told 11Alive police had it all wrong, saying she had rentors not clients.
The law describes a personal care facility as a location caring for two or more unrelated adults, providing at least one service beyond room and board. So if a home is helping residents groom themselves, manage medications or other living functions, it needs to be licensed.
According to the Department of Community Health Georgia has 2,579 licensed personal care facilities and 19 inspectors to check for compliance with the law. That's 135 facilities per inspector.
It's a smaller ratio than last year, but some argue still a large caseload when you consider it doesn't include the complaints they must field related to the thousands of suspected unlicensed facilities.
On Thursday's raid, police gathered representatives from five different state agencies, to assist in the investigations and find new licensed living arrangements for people displaced after the arrest of the owners and managers.
Investigators shut down one home on Columbia Drive in Decatur, helping three people pack up their belongings to leave. They also took three elderly clients from a home on Duren Meadows in Lithonia to the hospital for evaluation.
DeKalb County police Detective D. Poythress says a new law that went into effect last July, increased the penalties for unlicensed operators and gave police a foot in the door to investigate for other crimes such as abuse and fraud.
Poythress believes McIntosh was tipped off before they arrived.
"We did find signs of neglect. We found the freezers and refrigerators to have locks on them," she said.
Investigators are also looking at financial documents found inside the home, to see if the clients money were being managed properly.
"This is a great way of figuring out what's going on inside these homes. So we take this and we builsd on it. Once we figure out what's going on, we interview these patients, plus how they're paying, how they're eating," Poythress explained.
It's easy to determine whether a facility is licensed. DCH maintains an online database, that includes complaint history. But Poythress says often times, families still choose unlicensed facilities either for convenience or to save money. Too often, clients fail to complain about abuse because they feel they have no place else to go.
"Often times just having a place to stay, a warm place, a bed is better than being on the streets," she said.