Two Ohio lawmakers on Tuesday announced the introduction of legislation that would permit residents of assisted living communities and nursing homes, or their families, to set up video cameras in their rooms. The goal, the legislators said, is to reduce incidents of elder abuse.

“There are approximately 16,000 cases of elder abuse reported every year in Ohio,” said state Rep. Juanita Brent (D), who with state Sen. Nickie J. Antonio (D) introduced the bill, one version of which is known as H.B. 456. “Personally, I find this number staggering. It is about time someone stood up and fought for elder care. We need to hold those who take care of our loved ones accountable for their actions.”

The legislation now will be referred to committees in the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives.

Provider groups in the state said they would work to ensure that resident privacy was protected.

“Our interest is that the legislation also protect the privacy rights of the patient who is being surveilled and other patients and that the electronic monitoring does not fall into the wrong hands,” Ohio Health Care Association / Ohio Centers for Assisted Living Executive Director Peter Van Runkle said. 

The group, he added, is “happy to work with any legislator on electronic monitoring, as was the case with the 2013 legislation that ultimately did not pass.”

LeadingAge Ohio also stressed the importance of not compromising the privacy of residents while trying to address the issue of elder abuse. 

“We share Rep. Brent’s desire for quality care in Ohio and protections for our elders receiving long-term services and supports,” LeadingAge Ohio President and CEO Kathryn Brod said. “If abuse occurs, our members want to know about it immediately so they can act in the best interest of the elder.”

At least four states — Minnesota (effective Jan. 1), North Dakota, Texas and Utah — have laws mandating that assisted living communities accommodate resident requests to install electronic monitoring equipment in their rooms. New Jersey also has a “Safe Care Cam” program that loans micro-surveillance equipment to healthcare consumers, including families of assisted living and nursing home residents.

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News staff writer Danielle Brown contributed to this report.