Elder abuse bill passes in initial House action

Thursday, April 11, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The House has given initial approval to legislation strengthening laws protecting elderly Missourians in nursing homes.

"Right now we have a system where we don't regulate nursing homes," said Rep. Craig Hosmer, D-Springfield, the bill's sponsor. "We say we do ... but there are no consequences."

Hosmer's bill expands the powers of the attorney general's office in abuse cases and creates civil penalties for home health agencies.

It would require nursing home employees to report suspected abuse immediately. If they failed to do so, violators could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Abuse claims would have to be investigated within 24 hours by the Department of Health and Senior Services. In addition, law enforcement agencies would have to be notified.

Currently, only substantiated reports are given to the police. "That's backwards," Hosmer said. "A nursing home resident is treated like a second-class citizen."

In addition, the legislation would blacklist emergency medical services and hospital employees who abuse, exploit or neglect elderly people. It would prevent those employees from receiving similar jobs in the future.

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