As­sault spurs push for video sur­veil­lance

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Terry Tang

Ari­zona is try­ing to catch up to 10 states with laws al­low­ing elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing and other tech­nol­ogy aimed at de­ter­ring abuse of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple at long-term-care fa­cil­i­ties, fol­low­ing the rape of an in­ca­pac­i­tated Phoenix woman who later gave birth.

Cam­eras are most com­monly used, but they pose pri­vacy is­sues, and ad­vo­cates and ex­perts dis­agree about their ef­fec­tive­ness.

Some say video sur­veil­lance can help in crim­i­nal cases but may not stop at­tacks, while oth­ers have seen im­prove­ments and urge any ef­fort to safe­guard those who are ag­ing, sick, dis­abled or other­wise un­able to pro­tect them­selves.

The Ari­zona House is con­sid­er­ing a mea­sure that would let cer­tain fa­cil­i­ties in­stall video sur­veil­lance in com­mon ar­eas. The providers would have to de­tail how to avoid pri­vacy vi­o­la­tions.

“We’re look­ing into how to make it so par­ents have more re­li­able ways to en­sure their loved ones are safe,” said Repub­li­can Rep. Nancy Barto, the mea­sure’s spon­sor. “I’m learn­ing a lot of group homes al­ready do this. Some of those poli­cies are ac­tu­ally work­ing.”

Ari­zona would join Illi­nois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mary­land, New Mex­ico, Ok­la­homa, Texas, Utah, Vir­ginia and Washington with laws or reg­u­la­tions al­low­ing sur­veil­lance equip­ment in­side nurs­ing homes, as­sisted liv­ing cen­ters and other group res­i­den­tial set­tings.

Most of those laws place the op­tion

and cost of elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing on res­i­dents and their guardians. A ma­jor­ity of the laws say res­i­dents or their sur­ro­gates can put a cam­era or mon­i­tor­ing de­vice in their rooms but must no­tify the fa­cil­ity, among other con­di­tions.

Ca­r­ole Her­man, founder of the ad­vo­cacy group Foun­da­tion Aid­ing the El­derly, is not sure cam­eras would have helped her aunt, who died of bed­sores in a nurs­ing home, but said that they might be use­ful in other cases.

Cam­eras in hall­ways can show who is at a pa­tient’s bed­side and how of­ten the pa­tient is getting care, she said. She ques­tions why any fa­cil­ity would op­pose them.

“The in­dus­try doesn’t want it, ob­vi­ously,” Her­man said. “But if they care about these peo­ple, what’s the re­sis­tance to these cam­eras?”

Ni­cole Jor­wic, di­rec­tor of rights pol­icy at The Arc, a na­tional ad­vo­cacy group serv­ing peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual and de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties, cau­tioned that cam­eras are not a “magic pill.”

“Even if the law’s writ­ten per­fectly well, it’s not go­ing to cap­ture ev­ery form of abuse and ne­glect,” Jor­wic said.

While cam­eras could help catch abusers, it’s not clear they’re ef­fec­tive at pre­vent­ing vi­o­lence, said Brian Lee, a for­mer Florida long-term-care pub­lic ad­vo­cate who heads the ad­vo­cacy group Fam­i­lies for Bet­ter Care.

“As far as pre­ven­tion, I don’t know,” Lee said, “but I’ve seen it used for prose­cu­tion.”

But one ex­pert says a prop­erly de­signed closed-cir­cuit TV sys­tem with mul­ti­ple mon­i­tor­ing points can be a good de­ter­rent. A com­mon mis­take is to have one mon­i­tor­ing area that no­body is watch­ing, which makes cam­eras re­ac­tive in­stead of proac­tive tools, said Steve Wilder, pres­i­dent of Sorensen, Wilder & As­so­ciates, an Illi­nois-based health care safety and se­cu­rity con­sult­ing group that works pri­mar­ily with hos­pi­tals and se­nior liv­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

“A lot of fa­cil­i­ties think cam­eras give the mes­sage of ‘We’re not a safe fa­cil­ity.’ Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth,” Wilder said.

De­tails were not known about the se­cu­rity sys­tem at the Phoenix fa­cil­ity, where a li­censed nurse is ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a 29-year-old woman who had a baby boy Dec. 29.

Ha­cienda Health­Care said Thurs­day that it was closing the in­ter­me­di­ate care fa­cil­ity that serves young peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual or de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and would work with the state to move pa­tients else­where.

Af­ter the birth, the Ari­zona Depart­ment of Health Ser­vices im­ple­mented new safety mea­sures at Ha­cienda, in­clud­ing more mon­i­tor­ing of pa­tient care ar­eas but not video cam­eras.

The depart­ment de­clined to com­ment on the sur­veil­lance leg­is­la­tion Thurs­day.

In Texas, a 2013 law al­low­ing fa­cil­i­ties to in­stall and op­er­ate video sur­veil­lance equip­ment in com­mon ar­eas has made an im­pact, health of­fi­cials said. De­vices can only be placed in the state’s 13 in­ter­me­di­ate care fa­cil­i­ties, which serve nearly 3,000 pa­tients with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties.

Cam­eras have both con­firmed and cleared staff in al­le­ga­tions of abuse, ne­glect or ex­ploita­tion.

“There was an ini­tial rise as (the Depart­ment of Fam­ily Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices) was able to con­firm cases more read­ily, but since then, the rates have fallen,” Car­rie Williams, a Texas Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mis­sion spokes­woman, said in an email.

New Jersey has taken a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. Its “Safe Care Cam” pro­gram aims to catch abuse or ne­glect by al­low­ing res­i­dents to bor­row a hid­den cam­era.

A loaner cam­era led to the Jan­uary ar­rest of a care­taker at an as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity. The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said footage showed her slap­ping a 90-year-old bedrid­den woman on the hand and roughly push­ing her head back onto a pil­low sev­eral times. The vic­tim couldn’t com­mu­ni­cate ver­bally be­cause of a stroke.

In Ari­zona, the law­maker be­hind the cam­era leg­is­la­tion said it has “a good chance” of pass­ing.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Repub­li­can, is usu­ally skep­ti­cal of reg­u­la­tions and has touted his record of rolling them back, but the Repub­li­can has or­dered agen­cies to im­prove pro­tec­tions for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

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