Legislation that would bring a host of new protections to Georgians living in senior care facilities won unanimous approval Friday by the state Senate, making it likely that new standards for staffing and training, as well as increased penalties for bad actors, will become law.
“This is huge win for Georgia’s older population,” said Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging.
Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, said when presenting the bill Friday that an investigative series by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed “horror stories” about a lack of care in senior care homes and a lack of oversight and standards in Georgia to protect vulnerable seniors. He said the bill would address those issues.
“House Bill 987 is the right policy move in our state to make certain that families… can rest a little easier at night, knowing these facilities can offer the care that is expected and deserved for our seniors,” Strickland said.
Under the legislation, for the first time memory care units at assisted living and personal care homes would have to be certified. The bill also adds new staffing and training requirements. Directors who run assisted living communities and large personal care homes would have to be licensed, and assisted living communities would have to have nurses on staff. Operators would have to disclose financial problems, and those that break the rules or harm residents would face higher fines.
HB 987 won overwhelming approval by the House in February. The version approved by the Senate Friday includes new provisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring senior care homes, including nursing homes, to plan for a pandemic, have a short-term supply of personal protective gear, test residents and staff and notify residents and families of any outbreak.
Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, the lead sponsor of the bill, said she will push the House to agree to the Senate’s version so the bill can move as quickly as possible to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. Kemp has said he supports the bill.
Cooper called the bill “a major step forward” that would make Georgia a leader, especially when it comes to requirements for memory care units. She said the Senate’s additions related to COVID-19 are needed “to correct some serious problems that this pandemic brought to light in both assisted living and nursing homes.”
MaryLea Boatwright Quinn, of the Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, praised the Senate’s vote, saying “Georgians living with Alzheimer’s have long-awaited these training and staffing requirements.”
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