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Legislature Passes Sweeping Nursing Homes Reform Bill

Saturday, May 8, 2010 Nursing Profession News J E 4
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AARP, Groups Urge Governor Quinn to Enact Measure

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Legislation that will bring a sweeping reform to the way in which for-profit nursing homes operate in Illinois and that will greatly improve the quality of care and safety for institutionalized residents passed the State Senate today, and is on its way to the Governor's desk. An AARP-led coalition of advocacy organizations, unions and long term care providers worked for several months with the bill's sponsors to move it forward. The group is now urging Governor Quinn to enact the legislation.

Senate Bill 326 passed the Senate today by a vote of 46-8, after passing the House unanimously on Thursday 118-0. The legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Senators Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) and in the House by Representatives Barbara Flynn-Currie (D-Chicago), and Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago).

"This legislation provides sweeping reforms that will radically improve the quality of care and safety for nursing home residents in Illinois," said AARP Senior Manager for Advocacy, Nancy Nelson. "We commend the coalition of advocates who worked tirelessly to negotiate the bill, as well as Senators Steans and Collins, and Representatives Flynn-Currie and Feigenholtz for championing the legislation in both chambers. On behalf of our 1.7 million Illinois members, we urge Governor Quinn to sign into law this urgently needed reform measure."

Along with AARP, Illinois Citizens for Better Care, SEIU, Next Steps and many other advocates negotiated for months to complete the most sweeping reforms to nursing homes Illinois has seen.

The need for legislative reforms arose from newspaper stories - starting with the 2009 series from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reporter - that shone a light on unacceptable conditions in which thousands of seniors live in for profit nursing homes across the state.

The stories documented how residents had to live with dangerous individuals; had been physically, mentally, and even sexually abused by other residents; and were often given the wrong diagnosis or wrong medications - even dangerous anti-psychotic drugs - for their treatments. In many of the nursing homes documented in the series of articles, the problems were further compounded by staffing shortages. Illinois' for profit nursing homes currently have the lowest staffing ratios in the nation.

SB 326 will address these problems by, among other things:

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-- Establishing staffing ratios that will ensure residents are receiving adequate staff time to meet their needs; -- Creating meaningful regulations, including disincentives and penalties for providing bad care; -- Providing requirements and regulations to promote resident safety, and providing seniors with a protected environment; -- Improving the screening process in order to protect individuals who need nursing home care; -- Mandating that enough surveyors be available to provide real accountability for nursing homes that do not meet minimum standards.

SOURCE AARP Illinois
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