Hot Topic: Nursing Homes for Sex Offenders & Violent Offenders

OH- Proposed law would ensure nursing homes be informed when a sex offender moves in

This proposed law makes no sense because it puts the onus on law enforcement to do something (administrative clerical type work) that takes them away from law enforcement work. To take time to personally notify nursing homes when a registered sex offender moves into an address which is classified as a nursing home. Further, LE would have to keep track of every nursing home as well. It would be far easier and more cost justified if nursing homes would check the public registries on some regular basis for their new admissions, or on preadmission. If families of nursing home residents are concerned they can do the checking as well.

4-28-2009 Ohio:

You don't have to wait for a new Ohio law to pass to find out if a sex offender is living in the same nursing home where your mom or dad or other loved one lives.

You can find out right now.

The legislation, House Bill 98, introduced last month by State Rep. Courtney Combs, Republican of Hamilton, would require local sheriff's offices to notify nursing homes -- and other long-term care facilities -- when a sex offender moves in.

The facilities, in turn, would be required to tell patients and whoever looks out for them.

Combs introduced the law because an 18-year-old mentally retarded woman was raped by the man in the next room at a long-term care facility in his district. He doesn't want that to happen again.

The way the existing law is written, schools, day-care centers and homes -- but not long-term care facilities -- that are within 1,000 feet of where an offender lives are notified.

That means a sex offender could be sharing a room with Grandma or Grandpa and you'd never know it.

So how can you find out now? All you need is the address of the nursing home and a computer.

Go online to the Ohio attorney general's website and you can search for sex offenders. Type in the address of the nursing home. You'll get the name, photograph and address of each registered sex offender who lives within -- and you can choose this -- a quarter-mile, a half-mile, one or two miles.

Click on the offender's name, and you'll get a little more information on his or her crime.

The problem with the system, says John Saulitis, is that you have to keep checking back. A sex offender may not live in your mother's nursing home today, but he could move in next week. And that, Saulitis says, puts an unrealistic burden on nursing home residents and their families.

Saulitis runs the Youngstown office of Ohio's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs, part of a state and national system of people who look out for the rights and safety of those living in group homes, nursing homes and assisted-living centers, as well as those who receive in-home care.

He's also the guy who spent weeks combing through the registry to find out how many sex offenders live in Ohio's nursing homes.

It's a changing number. But when he finished his research on March 23, he'd discovered 107 offenders living in 47 nursing homes across the state.

Keeping tabs on them is a time-consuming process. That's one reason Saulitis wants to see the law changed.

He knows you can go to the attorney general's Web site listed above and sign up for an automatic e-mail alert whenever a sex offender moves close to any address -- including a nursing home's -- that you type into the site. The problem, he says, is that you get an alert whenever an offender moves into the surrounding area, not just the nursing home.

"The more notifications you get," Saulitis says, "the less you're going to pay attention to them."

And when you stop paying attention, what good is the notification?

That's another reason he's pushing for passage of House Bill 98 and urging all of us who have a loved one in long-term care to call our lawmakers.

"Contact your legislators," he says, "and say 'Look, there's a simple solution to this. It's called House Bill 98. We want to you support it.'

"It simplifies the system incredibly for the families and relatives," Saulitis says. "It's just much more efficient."

If you want a more complete picture about the safety and quality of a nursing home, make sure you go to the Department of Aging's Long-Term Care Consumer Guide.

Follow the instructions and the site will tell you how people who live in nursing homes feel about each facility. You can see, for example, what percentage of patients actually said they liked the home and what percentage would recommend it to someone else.

Not only will you get that from the patient's perspective, you'll get it from the family's, too.

You'll also find more specific survey results about things like clothing getting lost, residents being treated with respect, and how satisfied people are with the food and medical care.

What's more revealing, though, are the inspection reports you'll find when you click on the "Inspections" tab. That will lead you to a description of what Medicare/Medicaid inspectors found when they stopped by the facility -- unannounced and sometimes at night or on weekends -- to visit.

From those reports you can learn, for example, if a nursing home was cited for not providing a safe, clean environment; for medication errors that caused harm; for allowing pressure sores to develop; or for failing to notify family members when a resident was injured.

The information is even more helpful, says Beverley Laubert, the state long-term care ombudsman who oversees Ohio's 12 offices, when you click on the date under "Most Recent Annual Survey" and see the details of what officials call the "deficiencies."

What the Web site doesn't provide, though, is what action the nursing home took to solve the problem.

Each home is required to have that on hand, in an easy-to-see spot, says Laubert. Look for it at the front desk, nurses station or on a bulletin board.

If it's not there, ask for it, says Laubert. If you're not comfortable doing that, contact the state ombudsman's office at 1-800-282-1206 and someone will put you in touch with the office closest to you.

But don't stop there.

Spend some time at the nursing home and check it out for yourself.

"Nothing beats going there and visiting," says Kathy Keller, spokeswoman for AARP Ohio.

"You need to see it, you need to get the feel for the institution, you need to be able to walk around and see what is going on, you need to smell it, you need to see if the residents there seem to be happy or if they're not very happy."

That's the only way you'll know for sure if it works for you and your loved one. ..Source.. by Diane Suchetka/Plain Dealer Reporter

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