Senate Committee Substitute

SCS/SB 671 - This act modifies current law on abuse and neglect of certain vulnerable persons. This act contains provisions that prohibit a person from knowingly neglecting a person receiving health care, which shall be a Class D felony, unless the act involves no physical, sexual, or emotional harm or injury, in which case it shall be a Class A misdemeanor. This act also modifies the penalty of the existing offense of abuse of an elderly person, a person with a disability, or a vulnerable person from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony. Finally, this act modifies the existing offense of patient, resident, or client abuse or neglect against a person admitted on a voluntary or involuntary basis to a mental health facility or mental health program from a Class E felony to a Class D felony.

This act establishes the "Essential Caregiver Program Act". During a governor-declared state of emergency, a hospital, long-term care facility, or facility operated, licensed, or certified by the Department of Mental Health shall allow a resident of such facility, or the resident's guardian or legal representative, to designate an essential caregiver for in-person contact with the resident in accordance with the standards and guidelines developed under this act. An "essential caregiver" is defined as a family member, friend, guardian, or other individual selected by a resident, or the guardian or legal representative of the resident. Essential caregivers shall be considered a part of the patient's care team, along with the resident's health care providers and facility staff.

The Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Mental Health shall develop the program's standards and guidelines, including: (1) allowing the resident to select at least two caregivers, although the facility may limit in-person contact to one at a time; (2) establishing an in-person contact schedule allowing for at least four hours each day; and (3) establishing procedures enabling physical contact between the caregiver and resident. The facility may require the caregiver to follow infection control and safety measures; provided that such measures are no more stringent than required for facility employees. Caregiver in-person contact may be restricted or revoked for caregivers who do not follow such measures.

A facility may request a suspension of in-person contact for a period not to extend seven days. The suspension may be extended, but not for more than fourteen consecutive days in a twelve-month period or more than forty-five days in a twelve-month period. The Department may suspend in-person contact by essential caregivers under this act if it determines that doing so is required under federal law, including a determination that federal law requires a suspension of in-person contact by members of the resident's care team.

The provisions of this act shall not apply to those residents whose condition necessitates limited visitation for reasons unrelated to the stated reason for the declared state of emergency.

A facility, its employees, and its contractors shall be immune from civil liability for (1) an injury or harm caused by or resulting from exposure of a contagious disease or harmful agent or (2) acts or omissions by essential caregivers who are present in the facility, as a result of the implementation of the caregiver program. This immunity shall not apply to any act or omission of the facility, its employees, or its contractors that constitutes recklessness or willful misconduct.

Finally, a vendor participating in the MO HealthNet consumer-directed services program shall ensure all payroll, employment, and other taxes are timely paid on behalf of the consumer and the vendor shall be liable to the consumer for any garnishment action occurring or that has occurred as a result of the vendor's failure to timely pay such taxes. The vendor shall also be subject to a $1,000 per occurrence penalty for failure to timely pay such taxes. The vendor shall notify the consumer of any communication or correspondence from any federal, state, or local tax authority of any overdue or unpaid tax obligations, as well as any notice of an impending garnishment.


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