Hot Topic: Nursing Homes for Sex Offenders & Violent Offenders

Bill seeks nursing home unit for aggressive elderly

2-13-15 Iowa:

Iowa would consider setting up a special nursing home unit for elderly people who are combative or sexually aggressive, under a bill that took its first step forward Thursday.

The bill, Senate File 142, comes amid questions about what will be done with elderly psychiatric patients — including four sex offenders — now living at the state mental institution at Clarinda. Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration is moving to close that hospital and another one at Mount Pleasant.

State officials have been talking for several years about designating a nursing home facility for elderly people whose sexual or physical aggression poses a danger to other residents.

The new bill calls for a task force to be formed to look at how the state could set up such a facility, which could be run by the government or by a private agency using state money.

A Senate subcommittee endorsed the bill Thursday after hearing several lobbyists say they hope the effort would do more than produce yet another study of the issue. “Whatever road we get on, let’s make sure it’s going somewhere,” said John Hale, who advocates for better nursing-home care.

Anthony Carroll, a lobbyist for AARP, said another study would be a step. “But could we take a bigger step?” he said.

The four sex offenders at the Clarinda mental hospital reportedly include William Cubbage, 85, a four-time convicted sex offender who allegedly molested a 95-year-old woman at a Pomeroy nursing home in 2011. Before being transferred to that nursing home, he had spent eight years in a state institution. Des Moines Register stories about the case helped spur calls for a separate facility for such people, but no plan has emerged from those discussions.

State Sen. Liz Mathis, a Robins Democrat on the three-member subcommittee, said she hoped details would be added to the bill about how legislators want the facility to be set up and how the state would pay for it. “We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to take action,” she said.

Sen. David Johnson, an Ocheyedan Republican on the committee, said there is growing interest among Republican legislators to take some of the millions of dollars the state hopes to save by closing the two mental institutions and reinvest the money in other services for people with mental illnesses. The separate facility for aggressive elderly residents could be a good use for such money, he said.

Sen. Amanda Ragan, a Mason City Democrat who was chairman of the subcommittee, said the state should wait for such alternatives to be in place before it closes the two mental hospitals.

The governor’s spokesman, Jimmy Centers, said Branstad would reserve judgment on the Senate bill until seeing it in its final form, if it passes. He reiterated a pledge that the administration would seek a safe alternative to keeping the sex offenders at the Clarinda hospital. “The Iowa Department of Human Services is working to find a placement that ensures a safe and secure environment for other residents, the offenders and the community,” he wrote in an email to the Register.

The bill now goes to the full Senate Human Resources Committee. ..Source.. by Tony Leys

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