Employees of long-term care facilities in New Jersey will soon be subject to new requirements when it comes to reporting abuse. A law recently passed by the New Jersey Legislature and signed by Governor Christie on August 7, 2017, requires these employees to contact the local police when they have “reasonable cause to suspect or believe” that an “elderly person is being or has been abused or exploited.” The law takes effect on October 6, 2017.
Under current law, employees are only obligated to report suspected abuse to the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly. The new bill, dubbed “Peggy’s Law” after an assisted living resident who allegedly was a victim of abuse, requires employees to report abuse to both the Office of the Ombudsman and the local police.
The law imposes specific time requirements. When suspected abuse has led to “serious bodily injury,” the incident must be reported within two hours of “forming the suspicion or belief.” When suspected abuse has led to non-serious bodily injury, the incident must be reported within 24 hours.
Failure to comply with the law’s reporting obligations will result in a monetary penalty. Employees who fail to report suspected abuse may be fined up to $500 and facilities employing non-reporting employees face a fine up to $2,500.
Additionally, long-term care facilities are required under the law to provide their employees with a notice of the law’s reporting requirements on an annual basis.
In light of his new law, long-term care facilities should review their policies and emphasize this new requirement in training for all staff. Please contact Caroline J. Berdzik, Jonathan Amar, or another member of Goldberg Segalla’s Health Care Practice Group for assistance on getting into compliance.