TRENTON – The full Senate today unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey that is designed to protect patient safety at state psychiatric hospitals by enhancing accountability and promoting transparency. Senate bill S2494, which now heads to the Governor’s desk, would require the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to report the number of physical assaults and deaths that occur at state psychiatric hospitals.
“These hospitals are home to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents,” said Sen. Codey (D-Essex). “We need to ensure that they are in the care of staff that are appropriately trained and focused on their best interests. Enhancing accountability is one way to achieve that.”
The bill is part of a larger package designed to improve patient safety and strengthen hiring, training and oversight at state psychiatric hospitals. Sen. Codey worked closely with the Public Advocate’s office in drafting these bills, in part, to address a number of injuries and deaths that had arisen recently at state facilities such as Ancora Psychiatric Hospital.
All reports of deaths or assaults would be a public record, posted on the official DHS website, and updated quarterly, but would not contain any identifying information about patients or staff members. Additionally, the bill would require that DHS notify the Public Advocate within 24 hours after an unexpected death occurs at a state psychiatric hospital and promptly notify the Public Advocate of any death of which DHS has knowledge that occurs within seven days after a patient was discharged from a state psychiatric hospital.
“This new requirement will empower families by giving them the ability to check on a facility before entrusting their loved one in its care. It also sends a clear message to hospitals that their actions will be watched closely and investigated accordingly.”
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