In Part 3, which ran a few weeks ago, Berens further investigated “the system,” noting that the medical examiner and the police had created a plan to review these homes. A police detective had planned to visit each home where a death had occurred. The plan faced “instant opposition” from families, adult home owners, and doctors who didn’t like their judgments questioned.

The series has brought a few results. Adult homes must post inspection reports and violations and the Department of Social and Health Services will publish online its enforcement actions. While this disclosure is helpful, it doesn’t get at the systemic rot. It certainly hasn’t for nursing homes, where such disclosures are plentiful. We hope the paper will take this series to the next level and dig deeply into the payment system with its screwy incentives that allow such abuse to continue. That leads to money and politics. If Washington is a model for adult home care, it’s only fitting that the state’s premier newspaper become a model for the kind of journalism that can change the system.

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.