Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, visitation to NJ long-term care facilities has been severely restricted. The NJ Department of Health has issued guidance that allows LTC residents to have limited visitation in very specific circumstances. In addition, the NJ DOH has issued visitation guidance for the holiday season. General visitation and testing guidance was issued on October 20, 2020. (See page 22.) Holiday visitation guidance was issued on November 16, 2020. If If you have questions or concerns about visiting long-term care facilities, contact the NJ LTCO.
The following is guidance about the impact of Senate Bill 1219 – also known as “Peggy’s Law” -- which amends N.J.S.A. 52: 27G- 1, et seq., the enabling statute for the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (formerly the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly hereinafter referred to as LTCO), and became effective on October 6, 2017.
There are several key sections where the LTCO statute was changed that have an impact on the interactions between long-term care facilities (as defined in the enabling statute) and the LTCO. The statutory language and LTCO guidance for relevant sections are included below.
On October 18, 2017, the LTCO unveiled a new website - which features a separate page for long-term care facilities and includes direct access to information and publications that may be useful to facilities seeking to comply with the provisions of Senate Bill 1219. The “Information for Facilities” button can be found at the bottom of the LTCO home page.
N.J.S.A 52:27G-7 (a): This section was amended to state that “the office shall ensure that a system is in place to receive complaints 24 hours per day, seven days per week, whether or not live staff members are available to receive the complaint.”
The office has established procedures for receiving complaints. The office operates a multi-faceted system that ensures that LTCO is in compliance with this provision of the law. Calls to the intake line (toll-free line) are monitored 24 hours. As always, long-term care facilities that are reporting incidents are encouraged to call the intake line. Where appropriate, LTCO urges certain long-term care facilities to call and indicate that they plan to fax the AS-45 Reportable Event Record/Report, which should be received by the LTCO within 24 hours of an incident, and in some cases, within 2 hours. The intake line number is 1-877-582-6995. The fax number is 609-943-3479. You can also email PDFs of the AS-45 to email@example.com . Contact information for the LTCO and copies of the AAS-45 form are available on the LTCO website under “Information for Facilities.”
N.J.S.A 52:27G-7.1: Report of suspected abuse: (New Jersey refers to this paragraph as the “Mandatory Reporter”). This section requires that “Any caretaker, social worker, physician, registered or licensed practical nurse, or other professional or staff member employed at a facility, and any representative of a managed care entity who, as a result of information obtained in the course of that individual’s employment, has reasonable cause to suspect or believe that an institutionalized elderly person is being or has been abused or exploited, shall report such information to the ombudsman or to the person designated by the ombudsman to receive such a report.If an individual reporting suspected abuse or exploitation pursuant to this subsection has reasonable cause to suspect or believe that the institutionalized elderly person is or has been the victim of a crime, the individual shall additionally report such information to the local law enforcement agency and to the health administrator of the facility.
If the events that cause the suspicion or belief result in serious bodily injury, the individual shall report the suspicion or belief immediately, but not later than two hours after forming the suspicion or belief.
If the events that cause the suspicion or belief do not result in serious bodily injury, the individual shall report the suspicion or belief immediately, but not later than 24 hours after forming the suspicion or belief.”
The notable changes in this section include specific language that includes all “staff member(s) employed at a facility.” In addition, this section includes for the first time, representatives from managed care organizations as mandatory reporters.
Specifically, this section states that if a LTC facility staff member believes that a resident has been the victim of a crime, as defined by the criminal code, the local police must be contacted and the LTCO must be contacted. The local police should be contacted first if there is a reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime. Note: Facilities should consult their legal counsel for an interpretation of the state criminal code.
If the suspected commission of a crime results in serious bodily injury, the individual shall report the suspicion or belief IMMEDIATELY to the local police and the LTCO but, not later than two hours “after forming the suspicion or belief” of a crime.
If the suspected commission of a crime DOES NOT result in serious bodily injury, the local police and the LTCO should be contacted IMMEDIATELY but not later than 24 hours “after forming the suspicion or belief” of a crime.
N.J.S.A. 52:27G-7.1(f): “Any person required to report who fails to report abuse or exploitation and/or a crime shall be fined not more than $500 individually and, the facility employing the individual shall be fined not more than $2,500. Each violation of this act shall constitute a separate offense.”
The new legislation allows the LTCO to impose fines on both the individual AND the facility contracting with or employing the individual.