Taking care of vulnerable citizens

By state Rep. Mike Sanders

Lawmakers have passed several bills this year that address senior citizens, specifically those that are no longer living independently. I have previously mentioned this year’s legislation that will ban assisted living centers from charging residents to use their pharmacy of choice. There are two other bills moving through the legislative process that are pertinent to our senior citizens.

House Bill 2002 would require Oklahoma assisted living facilities with 50 or more beds to have a backup generator for emergency power in case of a disaster. The legislation is designed to protect businesses from an overly burdensome mandate. It includes a provision allowing a facility to request an exemption if they could show financial hardship. The legislation also requires continuum of care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living centers to file an emergency evacuation plan with their local fire department or county emergency management director.

During a legislative study, a representative from the Oklahoma Department of Health Long Term Care Service stated the agency strongly supports onsite sheltering as opposed to the transfer of residents to another facility during a natural disaster. A generator can help avoid moving vulnerable residents, especially in large facilities. An evacuation plan ensures that if they are moved, it is done in the optimum way.

House Bill 2207 provides elderly Oklahoma veterans a greater range of health-care choices. The legislation adds medical foster homes approved by the federal Veteran’s Administration to the definition of a “residential care home” and exempts them from certain state requirements.

A medical foster home is a non-institutional alternative to a nursing home where a veteran is matched with a caregiver in the local community. Residents in these homes receive care 24 hours a day. Medical foster homes are inspected and approved by the federal Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

I would also like to mention an unrelated bill that authorizes the sale of unneeded state properties and directs that the money generated be used to maintain other buildings. House Bill 2262 creates a Maintenance of State Buildings Revolving Fund, which will receive the revenue generated by proceeds from the sale of state-owned properties. Money in the fund would then be used to maintain and repair other state properties and buildings. There are currently more than 9,000 state-owned properties, according to the most recent estimates.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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