JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri nursing home residents can have surveillance cameras placed in their rooms starting in August, subject to certain rules, under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Mike Parson.
The measure, backers say, will help prevent abuse or neglect and aid investigations into misconduct at long-term care facilities.
And cameras will also simply allow families a window into their relatives’ care — a greater need after nursing homes banned indoor visitations in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a Creve Coeur-based nonprofit that pushed the legislation with support from AARP and the Missouri Coalition for Quality Care.
“With COVID-19 shutting long-term care communities down for nearly four months, some longer, this is more than necessary,” Moore said.
Residents’ mental and physical health were negatively affected when they no longer could visit with family and friends or socialize with other residents, according to VOYCE. Many families in the St. Louis area have also complained of difficulty getting information about loved ones living inside facilities where the virus has spread, including Cyndi Niehoff, who called to check up on her mother at Frontier Health & Rehabilitation March 29 only to learn she had died after testing positive for COVID-19 two days earlier.
Nursing homes nationwide have been particularly hard hit by the virus, which is dangerous to older adults and people with preexisting medical conditions.
COVID-19 has killed at least 305 residents and three employees at about 80 federally licensed nursing homes across Missouri and has infected more than 1,245 other residents. Dozens of other types of residential care facilities have also been affected, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
“It’s an important bill for this time,” said Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville, who sponsored the legislation Parson signed Tuesday. “It gives our citizens the opportunity to look in on their loved ones and protect them from abuse and just see what is going on.”
The Missouri Health Care Association, the state’s chief nursing home industry group, had lobbied against the video camera measure in past years, citing concerns any footage could be released out of context and violate residents’ and employees’ privacy.
The association reached a compromise this year with backers of the bill to prohibit footage from being released without permission from both the resident or the resident’s family and the nursing home operator, Murphy said. The law makes an exception for officials investigating abuse or neglect.
Legislation that would allow cameras in nursing homes also gained traction in other states this year after visitation bans at nursing homes renewed interest in the subject. About a dozen states already have laws or regulations in place allowing residents and their families to install video cameras in nursing home rooms.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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