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Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, speaks at the bill signing ceremony for the measure sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, which would expand the availability and promotion of NJ FamilyCare and take the first step to ensuring affordable health care coverage for all New Jerseyans.

Bill Stems From Conditions Found During Surprise Inspections of Facilities 

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey (D-Essex and Morris) that would establish minimum and maximum temperatures in emergency shelters, rooming and boarding houses, nursing homes and residential health care facilities to ensure safe and comfortable conditions for residents received final legislative approval in the Senate today.

The bill stems from several surprise inspections that Senator Codey has conducted on boarding houses, shelters, and residential health care facilities in the past. A surprise raid conducted with Mayor Ras Baraka on a rooming house in Newark last February found unsafe living conditions, with inside temperatures at zero degrees Fahrenheit and no running water in the only bathroom in the facility. The facility was immediately shut down and residents were displaced to a nearby YMCA. Senator Codey conducted two more surprise raids in September and found resident rooms with oppressive temperatures of 96 degrees at a boarding house in Newark and as high as 86 degrees at a nursing home in Madison housing elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia who can’t advocate for themselves. Such temperatures are well above the federally-permitted 81-degree limit.

“It’s unacceptable to allow anyone to live under such extreme and inhumane conditions, let alone those who have hit hard times and are simply looking for a safe place where they can sleep, live and get well,” said Senator Codey. “This bill puts the heat on these facilities to do what’s right and to improve living conditions for New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Under the bill, S-1961, a nursing home or residential health care facility must be equipped with air conditioning and heating in all areas used by patients or residents, and the air conditioning and heating must be operated so that the temperature does not exceed 81 degrees Fahrenheit or fall under 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

The temperature requirements under this bill would be restricted to areas of the facilities that are used by the residents or patients. They would not apply to rooms designated for activities requiring physical exertion, or rooms where residents can individually control the temperature in their own living units, independent from other areas. Under the bill, residential health care facilities and nursing homes that are in compliance with the federal regulatory standard regarding temperature for nursing homes participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs would be exempt from the temperature requirement.

“Having personally been to facilities where conditions were beyond acceptable, with sub-freezing inside temperatures in the winter and unbearable heat in the summer, I know that we need to do more to protect the elderly, the homeless and those who are suffering with chronic illnesses or mental health issues,” said Senator Codey. “Establishing common-sense safety standards at facilities designed to help those in need is an obvious place to start.”

Senator Codey is one of the state’s leading advocates for residents with developmental disabilities and a staunch critic of poor conditions and major deficiencies at state residential health care facilities and boarding houses.

The bill cleared the Senate today with a vote of 38-0. It previously passed the Assembly with a vote of 61-1, and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

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