Nursing homes and long-term care facilities, like all employers, are responsible for the prudent and responsible hiring of doctors, nurses, aides and any other staff members. This includes extensive background checks on prospective employees’ prior experience, education, and of course a criminal record that can encompass anything. Many are also familiar with laws in general as pertains to convicted sex offenders who must register with their states and be on a public list, as well as have their living and working situations restricted geographically, as well as who they are allowed to interact with or be near. Now in the state of Ohio, under a new law, nursing homes will be required to notify its residents if it admits a sex offender to join the community as a resident patient.
As reported, the law until recently, as applied to sex offender situations in general, mandated that anyone who lived in a 1,000 foot radius of a state registered sex offender be notified that a sex offender lived nearby. However for whatever reason, nursing homes were not mentioned in the law, thus seemingly omitting that requirement. Now this loophole has been corrected. Section 3721.22 of the Health and Safety statutes in the state of Ohio now require that “the [nursing] home’s administrator shall search for the individual’s name in the internet-based sex offender and child-victim offender database . . . . If the search results identify the individual as a sex offender and the individual is admitted as a resident to the home, the administrator” must notify all other residents of that nursing home. In addition, the administrator must also “develop a plan of care to protect the other residents” and ensure that the new resident’s address at the nursing home is updated in the public records under sex abuse laws.
The Effect of the Law
This new law thus puts the onus on nursing homes to take the proactive action of actually researching the background of each newly admitted resident under the sex offender laws. Notably it does not apply to offenders already living in nursing homes, but going forward such notice and precautions will be required for new residents. This law demonstrates a commitment to ensuring more security for nursing home residents, this time not just with regard to the facility’s doctors, nurses, aides and other employees, but with regard to fellow nursing home residents as well. It also is meant to notify the family members and friends of facility residents, who also have the right to know who is residing near their loved ones, and who they might be near when visiting.
This is particularly important when children are visitors to their grandparents or other relatives, even if just for a short part of the day. According to at least one report, it was found that 29 registered sex offenders were living in more than a dozen nursing homes in the state, yet no one seemed to be aware that they or their loved ones lived near these people convicted for horrible offenses.
Under Illinois law, a similar provision to the one that helped close the loophole in Ohio law exists in the statute under the Illinois Nursing Home Act. This provision does not appear to require notice to all residents of a sex offender or offender of many other types of serious crimes that are being admitted to the facility, but does require notice to residents of the right to request such information, thus adding an onus on the residents and loved ones to be the ones to make the request for such information from the state.
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