State enacts law requiring SNF workers to immediately contact police about abuse suspicions

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Employees of New Jersey nursing homes and senior living facilities who fear a resident has been abused will be required to report their suspicions to law enforcement, under a rule signed into law Monday by Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Currently, workers in the state's more than 900 long-term care and senior living facilities are required to report suspected abuse, neglect or other resident harm to the state long-term care ombudsman's office, according to NJ Spotlight.

The new bipartisan bill, dubbed “Peggy's Law” after an assisted living resident who died under disputed circumstances in 2010, will require workers to report abuse suspicions to local law enforcement agencies, as well as to the ombudsman's office. The report must be made with 24 hours, or no later than two hours after “forming the suspicion” for incidents involving serious bodily injury.

The employees will be required to submit the resident's name and address, the nature of the suspected abuse, and “any other information which might be helpful in an investigation of the case,” the bill reads.

Any workers who report alleged abuse or testify in any proceedings stemming from a report will have immunity from civil or criminal liability in the cases, “unless such person has acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose,” according to the bill. Workers who fail to submit their suspicions may be fined up to $500 under the law; their employing facilities could face fines up to $2,500.

Peggy's Law will take effect in October.