State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R - Brenham) and State Representative James Frank (R - Wichita Falls) have filed legislation in response to emergency rules that have limited family access to long-term care facilities.
The two on Monday filed House Bill 892, House Joint Resolution 46, Senate Bill 267 and Senate Joint Resolution 19 in an effort to increase the ability of facility residents to maintain contact and personal visits with their loved ones during state emergencies.
During the response to COVID-19 earlier this year, Texas issued emergency rules that restricted access to long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and state supported living centers. In September, the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) updated the rules to allow residents to designate up to two essential caregivers, who are provided with training to allow them to safely go inside a facility for scheduled visits with loved ones.
Kolkhorst, the chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, said while there is a public health mission to protect those who are vulnerable from COVID-19, that mission “should not send residents into a state of solitary confinement with no personal contact from family or friends.” She said she looks forward to working to “ensure the rights of long-term residents and make clear in the law that those lifelines to their family and friends will never be broken again.”
Frank, who chairs the House’s Human Services Committee, said he is “heartbroken” at the stories he has heard of spouses or parents who died after “living their final months in isolation.” He said legislators “must work this session at ensuring that these tragedies are not repeated in the future.”
Specifically, the legislation filed and accompanying resolution codify a nursing home or assisted living resident’s right to designate an essential caregiver, and directs the Executive Commissioner of the HHSC to establish guidelines for infection control measures to ensure resident and staff safety during caregiving visits.