When searching for a nursing home for a loved one, many turn to statistics on how well the nursing home performs as far as reported complaints, yearly inspections and other data. While these numbers are helpful, they do not address who else may be staying in the home. Many convicted felons are also housed at nursing homes, and some states want to increase those numbers by releasing prison inmates into nursing homes for their care.
Saving Millions But At What Cost?
Connecticut has just passed a law allowing incapacitated prison inmates to be released into long-term care facilities. The governor’s budget office says this will save the state millions of dollars in healthcare that normally has been billed within the prison system. Medicare would now pick up these costs. They insist that these inmates will not be a danger to other patients at the long-term facilities due to their medical conditions.
Texas has long been releasing prison inmates due to advanced medical conditions. Since 1991, Texas has released 1300 inmates for early medical release. 2011 had the highest released amount in five years, with 85 inmates let out into the public. Most of these inmates are released due to a terminal illness, they are elderly or need long-term care. 7.4% of the inmates that have been medically released have committed more crimes and ended up back in prison. Many of these released felons end up in nursing home facilities where Medicaid can foot the bill.
Illinois nursing homes were routinely making news headlines a few years back for their inclusionary ways. In September 2009, the Chicago Tribune printed a story on the mix of felons being allowed into the state’s nursing homes. The story focused on the fact that at the time of the article, 3000 patients in nursing homes in Illinois had been convicted of serious felonies. It also gave the details of three horrific incidences involving three nursing home victims of crimes perpetrated by felon’s housed in their facilities. Apparently, the leaders in Connecticut’s budget office did not read the article.
What Precedence Is Being Set?
If budgets become more important than the safety of the elderly in long-term facilities, will more states follow in Texas and Connecticut’s footsteps? Although, at this point, they say they are only releasing severely incapacitated inmates, with savings of this magnitude, it is a concern that this is only the first step. With nursing homes already understaffed and under scrutiny for abuse and neglect, it seems that releasing dangerous felons into an already broken system is a bad choice.
Nursing home patients and their families should have the right to know that the patient down the hall is not a threat. Allowing felons to be housed in the same facility is, at best, irresponsible. When the government starts putting budgets and dollars spent in front of the best interests of the people they are supposed to protect, there is a problem.
For laws related to Texas nursing homes, look here.
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