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Legislature approves nursing-home bill, sends to governor

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With overwhelming approval, the Oklahoma Legislature today sent to the governor a measure which would create a separate facility for sex offenders in need of long-term care.

House Bill 2704, by Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, directs the Department of Health to request bids for the operation of a stand-alone, long-term care facility that will house only elderly, registered sex offenders.

The bill is the result of work from nursing home advocate Wes Bledsoe who has lobbied lawmakers on the need to remove registered sex offenders from nursing home. Bledsoe has frequently informed the Legislature of incidents where nursing-home residents were abused by sex offenders who were placed in a long-term care facility by court order.

Bledsoe estimates about 30 registered sex offenders currently reside in nursing homes.

The bill's authors also pointed out the Oklahoma Department of Corrections estimates 2,250 inmates convicted of sex crimes will be released from prison in the next 10 years, with 26 percent of these convicts age 51 or older and potentially in need of long-term care. Additionally, recent data indicates the number of registered sexual offenders in Oklahoma is increasing.

The bill also requires the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to develop a payment method that offsets the cost associated with the heightened security measures.

The bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. "Scott Cooper

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