Press Release
Senator Jennifer Beck Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11)
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Contact: Emily Everson / (609) 847-3600
May 15, 2017
Beck/Sweeney ‘Stephen Komninos’ Law’ to Protect Developmentally Disabled from Abuse and Neglect Passes Committee

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The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has passed “Stephen Komninos’ Law,” bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Jennifer Beck and Senate President Steve Sweeney to protect individuals with developmental disabilities from abuse and neglect, by improving transparency and accountability among caregivers and at facilities. The law is named for a 22-year-old man with intellectual disabilities who tragically died in 2007 when he was left unsupervised, against medical orders.

“Stephen Komninos’ Law,” sponsored by Senator Jennifer Beck, would protect individuals with developmental disabilities, by improving transparency and accountability among caregivers and at facilities. (SenateNJ.com)

According to published reports, Stephen’s caregiver was only verbally counseled, and was allowed to return to work despite the fact that he had been found by DHS to have neglected not only Stephen, but another client as well.

Senators Beck and Sweeney were the prime sponsor of “Tara’s Law,” (2012) which established protections similar to those proposed under “Stephen Komninos’ Law” for people with developmental disabilities living in adult foster homes.

“When we enacted Tara’s Law more than five years ago, we made a promise that we would fight to extend those protections to group homes, supervised apartments, supported living arrangements, and developmental centers,” Senator Beck (R-Monmouth) explained. “Much like Tara, Stephen suffered through many substantiated incidents of abuse and neglect, and ultimately lost his life because a caregiver recklessly chose to ignore documented medical orders that were meant to keep him safe. There are 2,340 of these facilities in New Jersey. We need a fresh set of eyes in each one on a regular basis to ensure that anyone who commits such atrocities is held accountable for their crimes. This law will strengthen reporting requirements, upgrade penalties, and improve the way investigations are conducted, so that no other family ever has to endure such a tragedy.”

“Stephen Komninos’ Law” (S-516) would require the Department of Human Services to conduct two unannounced site visits, to check if patients are at risk or are being subjected to abuse, neglect or exploitation by a caregivers. S-516 also requires facilities to notify families a soon as possible, but no more than 60 minutes after a resident suffers an injury.

“Public schools are required to immediately notify a parent or guardian when their child is injured. There is no logical reason to hold care facilities for the developmentally disabled to a lesser standard,” Senator Beck said. “Requiring faster notification and allowing families to be present for investigations will improve accountability and transparency at the facilities meant to keep people with disabilities healthy and safe.”

“The Komninos family, and all of the families involved with this legislation over the years, have long advocated for their loved-ones through this bill,” Senator Beck added. “They have truly led the charge, and have a rightful, emotional connection to seeing these lifesaving protections signed into law. I am grateful for their tireless efforts.”

“Stephen Komninos’ Law” would also increase penalties for failing to report an incidence of abuse or neglect, and requires drug testing as a condition of employment. The penalties collected would be used for caregiver training and visits conducted as required under this bill. The bill will now be referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for review.

Related Facebook Post:
https://www.facebook.com/jenbecknj/posts/10155076307300781

Related Tweet:
https://twitter.com/jenbecknj/status/864228366978879488

Website Post:
http://www.senatenj.com/index.php/beck/becksweeney-stephen-komninos-law-to-protect-developmentally-disabled-from-abuse-and-neglect-passes-committee/33046