From the Office of State Senator Royce West - District 23

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Chante Prox or Kelvin Bass
(512) 463-0123
March 11, 2003

Senator West announces bills to combat elder abuse

AUSTIN - State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) today filed three bills, all with the goal of curbing what has become in Texas, an epidemic of neglect and abuse in nursing homes. A 2002 federal study revealed that nearly 90 percent of Texas nursing homes were found to have violations that were potentially dangerous to elder residents. Senator West has filed Senate Bill 1073, Senate Bill 1074 and Senate Bill 1075. Each focuses on a different, but vital aspect in providing greater protections for Texas' seniors.

Senator West will unveil the new legislation in a Tuesday, March 11, 2003 press conference sponsored by Texas Watch and Texas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents. The event will take place on the State Capitol's south steps at 10:15 a.m.

"We cannot, in good conscious, stand by and watch as our elder citizens continue to suffer from neglect and abuse," said Senator West. "Reports have indicated that nursing homes in this state are more likely than not to have dangerous conditions that are in violation of both state and federal standards of care."

Senate Bill 1073 calls for greater scrutiny of healthcare providers employed at nursing home facilities. Nursing home residents have often been the helpless victims of crimes involving theft, and assaultive offenses, including sexual assault. If passed, the bill will expand the list of offenses that bar employment at nursing facilities.

Senate Bill 1074 will require owners and employees of nursing homes to report observed instances of abuse and neglect to health officials and law enforcement. State agencies and law enforcement entities, under SB 1074, will combine their efforts in investigating nursing home violations.

Senate Bill 1075 orders the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHHSC) to launch a study of state agency responses to elder abuse and neglect. The study will look for duplication of services and include recommendations for better meeting the needs of the elder population.

"The abuse and neglect of our seniors must stop and those providers who are in violation must be held accountable," said Senator West. "This package of bills will bring greater attention to the issue by coordinating the investigative efforts of state agencies and police. It's not too much to ask that we all take a closer look on the care provided to our elder citizens."

The October 2002 report released by the Special Investigation Division of the Committee on Government Reform also said that 94 percent of Texas nursing homes fall short of minimum staffing requirements. This is in addition to numerous reported violations of federal and state health and safety standards. These conditions increase the likelihood of neglect and abuse in Texas nursing homes.

For more information, please contact Chante Prox or Kelvin Bass at 512-463-0123.