Utah camera bill moves to Senate

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A bill that would require assisted living communities to grant resident requests to install monitoring equipment in their rooms unanimously passed out of the Utah House of Representatives Feb. 12 and has moved to the state Senate.

The Utah Health Care Association and the Utah Assisted Living Association have decided to take a neutral position on H.B. 124, also known as the Assisted Living Facility Surveillance Act, said state Rep. Timothy D. Hawkes, who had introduced the bill in the House. “To be clear, that does not mean they support the bill or welcome it,” he told McKnight's Senior Living. “It continues to make them and their members nervous. They do recognize, however, that we've found ways to address a lot of what concerned them most about the bill, and that was enough to move them from opposed to neutral.”

Hawkes' bill would allow video and audio monitoring equipment to be used in resident rooms as long as the assisted living community has been given advance notice as well as details about the technology and its intended placement. Any roommates who would be affected by the installation request would need to approve. If the community desires, the resident or his or her representative also would be required to post a sign near the entrance to the room notifying people that the room contains a monitoring device. Communities could not refuse to accept, nor could they evict, a resident based on a camera request.

As of Feb. 15, UHCA had not responded to a Feb. 12 request for comment from McKnight's Senior Living. Argentum referred McKnight's Senior Living to someone at UALA, who did not respond to a request for comment on Feb. 15. A “call to action” posted on UALA's website Feb. 3 expressed concerns that the legislation would raise liability issues as well as violate resident and caregiver privacy, potentially hindering staff recruitment efforts at a time when workforce development is challenging.

LeadingAge has not taken a position on the bill.

Argentum and the UHCA previously had expressed concerns to McKnight's Senior Living that cameras could infringe on the privacy that is a hallmark of assisted living and generate footage that could be manipulated or end up in the wrong hands. Pre-employment criminal background checks, employee training, resident and family education, and a focus on ensuring sufficient staffing levels as alternatives to monitoring equipment, they said, could address resident and family concerns about potential theft, abuse and neglect, which often are the impetus for camera legislation.

“I continue to work with people in the industry to address concerns, and I'm committed to revisiting the bill if it generates unforeseen problems or puts unreasonable burdens on facilities,” Hawkes (pictured) said. “On the other hand, I continue to hear from people (principally family members who have loved ones in facilities) who think this represents an important and positive step forward.”

Hawkes said he expects the proposed legislation to receive a hearing in a Senate committee this week. Then it could move on to a full vote on the Senate floor, perhaps next week. If passed in the Senate, barring the addition of any amendments that would need to be reconciled with the House version, the bill would move on to Gov. Gary Herbert to be signed into law.

H.B. 124, if passed, would be the first time in more than a decade, and only the second time overall, that legislators have passed such a law covering assisted living. Five states — Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington — have laws requiring nursing homes to grant resident requests to use surveillance equipment in resident living areas. Only Texas' 2001 law, amended in 2003 to also apply to assisted living, currently applies specifically to device requests initiated by assisted living community residents or their families, according to Argentum.

The above article was published on Feb. 15, 2016. See our previous and subsequent articles on this legislation here:

Nation's second law for resident cameras in assisted living rooms gets closer (Jan. 20, 2016)

Utah camera bill advances through House committee (Feb. 3, 2016)

Utah camera bill headed to governor's desk (March 3, 2016)

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