Another Law Based on Fear and Lies
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by Staff Writer - January 16, 2022
Pennsylvania state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Ambridge plans to introduce legislation within the next few weeks making it difficult for some of the states most vulnerable citizens, aging and ailing convicted sex offenders to enter long-term care facilities. Under current Pennsylvania law and in many other states, facilities are not required to accept any patient. Care facilities maintain that caring for people on the registry increases their liability. The new Megan's Law for nursing homes will allow Pennsylvania care facilities to more effectively deny care to those on the registry.
Proponents of this law assert that, " sex offenders are quietly entering long-term care facilities, where some are easily finding their next victims". There is absolutely no evidence that this statement is true. Sex offenders are no more likely to assault, sexually or otherwise, another nursing home resident, no more then any other resident or staff member. In fact, researchers have found that the chance of recidivism among people on the registry decreases by half for every five years an offender is out of prison, according to Jill Levenson, professor of social work at Barry University and an expert in sex offender treatment and policy. However, laws such as these are easily finding support. In Pennsylvania, this proposed law has already attracted 11 co-sponsors among those that wish to further punish and infringe upon the rights of elderly people who have already paid their debt to society. Pennsylvania lawmakers fear they will be perceived as "lagging behind" other states such as California, Illinois, Louisiana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Oklahoma who have already enacted such draconian legislation.
This new law in Pennsylvania will require care facilities to create "patient safety plans" to protect others from the offenders, and notify staff and residents and their families when convicted sex offenders are admitted. It will also require facilities to report this information to the (state) Department of Health in order to create and maintain a second a statewide sex offender registry of registrants requiring nursing home care. In practice however, what this proposed law does is create an immense barrier for elderly people on the registry from entering into residential care. Service providers may not want to risk families removing their other residents in order to accommodate one or two residents on the registry and will be much more inclined to reject them from ever entering into care. When registrants and their families are able to find a facility that will accept them, they may not provide the quality of care comparable to other facilities. It also may increase the danger of staff mistreatment and patient abuse.
Every elderly person seeking residential nursing care deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and should be provided care appropriate to their needs. These "Megan's Laws for nursing homes" do not encourage that, they are designed to promote the exact opposite.