Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,C,I,WF-East Northport) today built upon his strong history of advocacy on behalf of seniors and their families by submitting a motion to discharge legislation from committee that would initiate a study into the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the evacuation plans for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“The events of Hurricane Katrina revealed the need to be certain that in case of an emergency, those in nursing homes will not be abandoned,” said Raia. “Instead of learning we have a problem ‘after the fact’, we must take proactive measures to ensure seniors are safe and properly taken care of.”
Raia noted that when families make the difficult decision to put a loved one into a nursing home or other elder facility, they expect that their relative will receive the best care in a safe and healthy environment. The tragic events that occurred during Hurricane Katrina at St. Rita’s nursing home, where more than 34 elderly residents drowned after the owners declined assistance in the evacuation, provides us with the opportunity to revisit our own state’s policies on mandatory evacuations to ensure that this doesn’t happen here.
This legislation directs the Office for the Aging, in consultation with the Department of Health, the State Emergency Management Office and others, to initiate a study of the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of current nursing home, assisted living and other elder facility evacuation plans regarding an emergency, natural disaster or terrorist attack. Facilities shall have one year (after the publication of the study) in which to incorporate the agencies' guidelines and recommendations into their evacuation plans.
Currently, DOH requires Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities to have an emergency plan, so this bill would not be placing an unfunded mandate on them. It will, however, enhance and update their plans to reflect the lessons of others.