A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to improve oversight of facilities that care for patients with dementia has been signed into law.
"These are often very delicate situations involving some of our most vulnerable residents. This law will provide more personalized oversight so that their families can have peace of mind knowing they're getting the best care possible," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
The law (A-1102) transfers responsibility for the oversight of rooming or boarding houses for persons with dementia from the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to the Department of Health (DOH), which would be required to license these facilities as "dementia care homes."
The new law also amends the "Rooming and Boarding House Act of 1979" to delete its provisions concerning the regulation of rooming or boarding houses for persons with dementia by DCA, and creates new sections of law that supplement chapter 2H of Title 26 of the Revised Statutes to set forth the regulatory authority of DOH over dementia care homes and the regulatory requirements that will apply to these entities as health care facilities licensed pursuant to the "Health Care Facilities Planning Act."
Under the law, DCA is prohibited from issuing a license to any person to own or operate a new rooming or boarding house that provides services to residents with special needs, including, but not limited to, persons with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders or other forms of dementia.
DOH is empowered under the law to exercise such authority with respect to a dementia care home as it is granted with respect to any other DOH-licensed health care facility. A dementia care home is granted provisional licensure by DOH for a period of one year following the effective date of the law. At the end of that period, DOH is to issue a license to the facility or make continued licensure subject to such actions by the facility as the Commissioner of Health determines necessary to effectuate the purposes of the "Health Care Facilities Planning Act" and this law.
The law defines "dementia care home" as a community residential facility that provides services to residents with special needs, including, but not limited to, persons with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders or other forms of dementia; is subject to the licensure authority of DOH as a health care facility; and meets the requirements of the law.
The law prohibits a person from operating, or advertising a facility as, a dementia care home without a valid license having been issued by DOH for the operation of that facility, or from advertising a dementia care home as another type of health care facility licensed by DOH.
BY MARINA VILLENEUVE
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are such severe mental disabilities, requiring such extensive care, that state health authorities should be the ones to oversee group homes housing its victims.
That’s the thrust of a bill — shepherded by a North Jersey assemblywoman and awaiting the governor’s signature — that would not only increase oversight of such homes, but end a dilemma for municipal boards confronted with such development proposals.
It’s a dilemma now being faced in Upper Saddle River. There, a developer proposing such a home is contesting the borough’s very right to review its medical-services plans for the facility. It’s doing so by arguing with the borough’s interpretation of the state’s definition of head “injury,” currently the basis for determining what types of homes for persons with such disabilities are exempt from intensive review and approval by hometown boards.
It’s another example, said Deputy Speaker and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, that shows exactly why she initiated the legislation. The bill explicitly excludes Alzheimer’s and dementia from the law’s definition of head “injuries” and would put the state Health Department in charge of overseeing group homes for those categories of disabled.Read more