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A bill to require the state Department of Public Health to check criminal backgrounds and the sex offender registry for all incoming nursing home residents before they can be admitted drew heavy criticism this week during a public hearing.
The bill was a response to a May 2021 CT Mirror story that told the story of a Massachusetts man, who was on the sex offender registry there, who was admitted to the Fresh River Healthcare Center and allegedly sexually assaulted a nurse.
One of those to speak against the bill was DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, who said the bill, while well-intentioned, would be hard to execute and would cost money.
“This bill would result in additional costs associated with the fingerprinting tests for the background checks, and bill language does not assign responsibility for this cost,” Juthani said. “Also, the Health Care Quality and Safety branch at DPH would need additional staff to monitor compliance and manage the anticipated increase in waivers related to the unnecessarily broad number of disqualifying offenses.”
Juthani also raised an issue that several others brought up: The list of criminal offenses that would disqualify a person from getting admitted into the long-term care facility was too broad.
“We also encourage the committee to consider the proposed list of offenses in the context of racial inequities in the criminal justice system,” Juthani said. “The list of criminal offenses in the bill could have the unintended consequence of limiting access to care for the state’s Black and brown communities.”
The bill was proposed last year by the State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, whose district includes Fresh River. It was tabled, and a task force was formed to study “the impacts of residents with such status for both their own and environmental health and well-being.”
Cindy Prizio, executive director of One Standard of Justice, called it “a public policy disaster in the making.”
“The elderly on the Sex Offense Registry are already suffering a financial and housing crisis as a direct consequence of public policy,” Prizio testified.
“The Registry also contains a racial bias that would be further perpetuated by this bill. If Connecticut is going to take away the few options they have left for adequate health care, what will it offer in its place?”