Hot Topic: Nursing Homes for Sex Offenders & Violent Offenders

OK- Steele Nursing Home Bill Passes Both House, Senate Unanimously

Issue - Nursing Homes

5-29-2008 Oklahoma:

The Oklahoma Legislature voted last week to establish separate nursing home facilities for convicted sex offenders in need of long term care.

House Bill 2704, by state Rep. Kris Steele and Sen. Tom Adelson, directs the Department of Health to request bids for the operation of a stand-alone, long-term care facility that will house only elderly, registered sex offenders.

"This legislation will allow for the operation of a home that includes additional security measures for offenders," said Steele, R-Shawnee. "This is a common-sense, fiscally responsible way to reduce the risk for abuse and protect our aging population from predators."

There are approximately 30 known sex offenders currently residing in Oklahoma nursing homes. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections estimates 2,250 inmates convicted of sex crimes will be released from prison in the next 10 years. Twenty-six percent of these convicts will be age 51 or older and potentially in need of long-term care. In addition, recent data indicates the number of registered sexual offenders in Oklahoma is increasing.

Currently, federal law requires the state of Oklahoma to pay for long-term care services for individuals who are Medicaid eligible - whether or not they are convicted felons. Registered sex offenders living in nursing homes can create a dangerous environment for other residents in the home.

In 2005, the Legislature passed a law requiring nursing homes to post public notification whenever a registered sex offender is admitted as a resident. However, because of low staff levels and a short supply of security guards, Steele noted some nursing homes are finding it difficult to properly monitor sex offenders who reside in a facility. Federal regulations also prevent nursing homes from restraining residents except in rare circumstances.

Under the legislation, any facility bidding to house sex offenders would have to meet surveillance and security requirements necessary to protect the public.

House Bill 2704 also requires the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to develop a payment methodology that offsets the cost associated with the heightened security measures. Any provider interested in managing a stand-alone facility for offenders would net the same reimbursement rate currently provided to care for persons in need of long-term care.

"Protecting our senior adults is a primary responsibility of state government," Steele said. "Oklahoma's most vulnerable citizens should be able to live the latter years of life with dignity, free from fear. Implementing appropriate safeguards for the elderly can make this goal a reality."

House Bill 2704 passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. ..News Source.. by County Wide News

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