Vainieri Huttle Bill to Improve Oversight of Dementia Care Homes Becomes Law

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.

The law directs the Commissioner of Health to establish standards to protect the health, safety, and welfare of dementia care home residents, including standards that are designed to meet the particular needs of persons with dementia, and requires DOH to include dementia care homes among the long-term care facilities for which it posts information on its website about the ownership of the facility and any violation of statutory standards or DOH regulations.

In addition, the law sets forth the rights of dementia care home residents and requires a dementia care home operator to ensure that a written notice of these rights is given to every resident upon admittance to the facility and to each resident upon request. The operator is to post this notice in a conspicuous public place in the facility, and the notice is to include the name, address, and telephone numbers of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, county welfare agency, and county office on aging.

The law also includes dementia care homes among those facilities with respect to which the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly is authorized to receive, investigate, and resolve complaints and to initiate actions to secure, preserve, and promote the health, safety, and welfare, and the civil and human rights, of their elderly residents.

The Commissioner of Health is authorized to grant, to a dementia care home that is operating as a rooming or boarding house that provides services to persons with dementia on the effective date of the law, a temporary or permanent waiver of one or more requirements established by regulation of the commissioner for licensed health care facilities that the commissioner has determined are otherwise applicable to the dementia care home, if the dementia care home can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the commissioner that: the granting of the waiver would not threaten the health, safety, or welfare of its residents; and the failure to grant a waiver would pose a serious financial hardship to the facility.

Dementia care homes would be exempted from the certificate of need requirement that applies to the construction or expansion of DOH-licensed health care facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes.

The law provides for the imposition of penalties by DOH with respect to a dementia care home in the same manner as would apply in the case of a violation of the "Health Care Facilities Planning Act" by any other licensee.

Finally, the law authorizes the Commissioners of Health and Community Affairs to establish and enter into an inter-agency agreement as necessary for its purposes, and to adopt rules and regulations to implement its provisions on an expedited basis for a period of up to 12 months following its effective date.

The law takes effect on June 1, 2016, but authorizes the Commissioners of Health and Community Affairs to take prior administrative action as necessary for its implementation.