Elder Abuse Task Force recognizes Rep. Sharon Cooper for work on nursing home reform

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Officer Chuck McPhilamy of the Marietta Police Department distributed a statement on behalf of the North Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force recognizing Georgia state Representative Sharon Cooper, HD-43, Marietta, for her work in the successful passage and signing into law of House Bill 987.

The law increases the fines for violations by nursing homes and makes the training, staffing and financial stability requirements to operate a nursing home in Georgia more stringent.

It also prohibits retaliation against a person reporting abuse, neglect or exploitation of a nursing home resident.

The NGEATF statement reads as follows:

North Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force (NGEATF) Applauds Representative Sharon Cooper for Championing Major Statewide Reforms in Nursing Home Life Safety. 

NGEATF works with first responders and communities across North Georgia to monitor and address elder abuse and educate ways to prevent it.  We were contacted by nursing home residents a few months ago with horror stories about COVID-19 issues within numerous elder assisted and nursing facilities.  We initially turned to our partners in law enforcement for advice.  Investigations were started and uncovered that the issues were not criminal in nature, but rather public health confusion and red-tape related to policies not yet created addressing COVID-19.  With so much global attention focused on working adults and school aged children’s safety, our elder population residing in care homes had been inadvertently overlooked.  Our investigations uncovered troubling numbers of COVID-19 cases in numerous facilities.  Continued conversations revealed that not only had the virus entered their facilities, but was now spreading to other residents and healthcare providers.  Even worse, most workers were not clear on when they should send their residents to local hospitals for isolation and treatment.  As a result, sick residents were being kept inside assisted living and nursing home facilities, furthering the spread to other residents and caregivers.

With worldwide shortages of N95 masks, personal protective equipment/gear and disinfecting supplies, facility workers stated they were unclear who to call for help.  Upon hearing these stories and documented increased numbers of elder deaths inside care facilities, we turned to our friend and longtime champion of elderly causes; Representative Sharon Cooper for her insight.  Representative Cooper was, to say the least, concerned, and quickly turned her concerns into action.  She sought remedies to the serious problems brought to her by the NGEATF and worked on changes to protect elderly victims.  She presented the Georgia House of Representatives with recommendations on these new concerns as well as other related matters in the form of House Bill 987.  Even in the 2020 atmosphere of confusion and chaos, she was able to quickly get HB 987 passed.  It was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp and became effective June 30, 2020.  Assuming it is properly administered and enforced, it will represent a major reform for Georgia long-term health care facilities.  Therefore the North Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force salutes Representative Sharon Cooper and all of her legislative colleagues who helped make this vital advancement possible. 

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