(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo and Valerie Vainieri Huttle requiring the Department of Community Affairs to post inspection reports for residential health care facilities, boarding homes, and emergency shelters for the homeless on its website has been signed into law.
"Making the inspection process more transparent by publicizing the reports online is a step in the right direction," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "There is no reason why these inspection reports should not be easily accessible to the general public unless there is something amiss. This helps ensure trust that the facility is operating as it should, especially for people served by these facilities."
"Too often we find out about problems with these types of facilities after the damage has already been done," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Making these reports easily available online provides the public with an unbiased view of how these facilities are conducting business, and helps ensure that individuals who rely on these facilities are receiving the adequate service and assistance."
The law (A-3175/S-1856) requires the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to post on its website all inspection reports prepared on its behalf for residential health care facilities, boarding homes, and emergency shelters for the homeless. The Bureau of Rooming and Boarding House Standards in the Division of Codes and Standards in DCA performs or oversees the inspection of these facilities. The law also promotes greater transparency with respect to these facilities by providing residents and their families with greater access to information about the conditions of these facilities.
The responsibility to inspect residential health care facilities was transferred from the Department of Health to DCA pursuant to a reorganization plan. If such responsibilities are returned to the Department of Health or transferred to another department, the law provides that the inspection reports prepared by or on behalf of such department be posted on the website of that department.
Some rooming and boarding houses and all emergency shelters for the homeless are inspected by local officials. Municipalities with such local inspections are required to file with the commissioner of DCA copies of inspection reports prepared following these inspections to enable DCA to post the reports on its website. The law also authorizes the commissioner of DCA to prescribe a standard inspection format be used by municipalities conducting these inspections.
If an inspection reveals a serious health and safety violation at any of these facilities, the department is required to post the inspection report, as well as the name of the facility and the owner of the facility on its website no later than 72 hours following the inspection. If any of these facilities has its license suspended, the department has to post the suspension on its website no later than 72 hours following the suspension. Under the law, the department is required to notify the Commissioner of Human Services, or the commissioner's designee, and the director of the county board of social services or county welfare agency, as appropriate, in the county where the facility is located, of a serious health and safety violation or license suspension at the facility.
The bill was approved 75-2-0 by the Assembly, and 37-0 by the Senate in December.