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Henry signs bill on sex offenders in nursing homes

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After years of battling, pleading, arguing and praying, Wes Bledsoe finally saw his dream come true. At a signing ceremony inside the state Capitol, Gov. Brad Henry put into law a measure that will keep sex offenders away from residents in nursing homes.

"This is the greatest day of my life," Bledsoe said, standing next to the governor with pen in hand.

AUTHORITY
The signing of House Bill 2704 gives the state the authority to set up a separate facility to house sex and violent offenders in need of long-term care. The measure does not build a new facility, but calls on existing nursing homes in Oklahoma to bid on a contract with the state to house the offenders. It must be a separate facility, away from the other residents, and will be paid for through Medicaid funds.

 "Medicaid is an entitlement," said Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, at the signing ceremony. "A person receives Medicaid whether they have a felony or not."

Steele, author of the bill, said the state would ask the federal government to grant a waiver to increase the Medicaid reimbursement payments to offset additional security costs. He also said three nursing homes have contacted his office wanting to know about the bidding process.

COMPASSION
While plenty of congratulations were passed around, the man of the hour was Bledsoe.

 "I've known Wes for about 10 years and I can attest to his passion to see senior citizens treated with compassion," Henry said. "This was his idea."

Bledsoe thanked all his supporters and called the legislation "a model for every other state to follow." "Scott Cooper

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